I’ve had students defend their rather negative attitude at school like this:
“High school is a time for rebellion. As a high school kid, you should disobey your teachers in order to discover yourself. Perhaps most of all, high school is a time for pranks and practical jokes.”
Anthropological considerations aside, from a socio-economic perspective this type of attitude towards high school is often a sign of privilege. Some parents even encourage their children to “experiment” at the very spot where their offspring should be preparing for the future. And by experimenting they don’t mean developing philosophical thought experiments or exploring a scientific hypothesis. They rather refer to a kind of mischief that is supposed to build a strong character and personality. When teachers complain about the conduct of their children, those types of parents either pretend to agree with the teachers or they try to excuse the misconduct by using phrases like “we’ve all been young” and “with youth comes youthful indiscretion…” Those parents know that what their children don’t learn at school, they will learn from high paid tutors who eventually get them into university.
Apart from developing the weak spine of a spoilt brat, adolescents who grew up that way didn’t do anything else but imitate the kind of behavior that is advertised in pop culture time and again. We all develop an identity by mimetic (i.e. imitative) processes, of course, but it is quite ironic that the high school rascal thinks of himself as an original and daring character. This is the typical narcissism of the youngster who thinks of himself as a hero and doesn’t see that there is nothing heroic about “transgressing rules” at most of today’s permissive high schools. He is unable to love the reality of his situation, but is all the more in love with an unrealistic self-image of which he wants the confirmation by his peers. In the end, however, his eventual professional ambitions are often not “original” at all, as they turn out to be imitations of the ambitions of his parents and their social network.
When children come from a poor neighborhood and have to walk 10 miles a day to the nearest school, they don’t have the luxury to waste the precious time and money that their community invests in providing a good education. As it happens, some of those disadvantaged children end up at schools surrounded by rich kids who behave like so-called high school rebels. However, the poor child who starts imitating his “rebellious” classmates does not have the resources to compensate for the potential voids in his education as a consequence of his so-called rebellious behavior. There is not an army of high paid tutors waiting at home.
Moreover, in the process of growing up the disadvantaged kid will also start noticing that his mischief is separated from the same mischief committed by privileged youth of the same age group. Indeed some rich parents who do excuse the misconduct of their own children as “youthful indiscretion” will condemn the same behavior as “juvenile delinquency” when it is performed by so-called uneducated poor people, even more so when these are people of color. Racism runs deep. Add to this the fact that a lot of socio-economic problems today in communities of colored people are the consequence of a history dominated by white elites, and it becomes clear why a movement against discrimination calls itself Black Lives Matter to create “privilege for all” and not predominantly “white”.
People on the political right should be more aware of the double standard behind blaming disadvantaged people for their own miserable situation. The fact of the matter is that opportunities are not equal for all. Some enjoy the privilege of getting away with so-called “youthful indiscretions”, for instance, while others are incarcerated for the very same youthful sins. Those types of privilege are often forgotten by the political right. Also, if we would truly live in a meritocratic society, and not just on paper, the likes of Donald Trump would never make it into the US presidential office (even if they were backed by powerful elites who were planning to use that type of president to push their own agenda).
In a worst case scenario, the downtrodden develop a deep-seated feeling of ressentiment. They develop an aversion to the ambitions they previously imitated from their privileged peers. They comfort themselves by getting a sense of self-worth in groups that claim to oppose everything privileged people stand for. As a privileged elite points to their mistakes and blames them for their miserable condition, while at the same time that privileged elite can afford making similar mistakes without having to pay for them, they are easily manipulated by recruiters who abuse their sense of victimhood. They fall for the basic story of every manipulator: “They reject you, but I see your potential…” Thus they become the slaves of false Messiahs who promise to deliver them from victimhood, but who actually keep the victimary status alive to gain power over their followers. Gangs thrive upon ressentiment, from ISIS to the Black Disciples to groups of Neo-Nazis.
It is important to realize that the violence originating from ressentiment cannot be disconnected from instances of systemic violence and oppression as described above. Ressentiment ultimately results from a comparison by people who feel disadvantaged, one way or the other, with people who are at least perceived as privileged. Although privileged people often cannot be held personally responsible for racism and other types of discrimination, there are historically grown structural injustices, which result in some people literally having more chances than others. So gang members are indeed personally responsible for pulling the trigger in acts of violence, but the way society is structured as a whole often hands them the weapons. As for the latter, we all bear some responsibility, if just for our voting habits.
To realize the depth of historically grown structural injustices, it is good to listen to the following speech of Kimberly Jones (be sure to watch the video below of Desiree Barnes against looters to get a complete picture of what this article is all about). Jones ends her powerful statement by saying “They are lucky that as black people what we are looking for is equality and not revenge…”:
White Privilege Forgotten by the Left
While the political right often remains blind to instances of deeply ingrained, historically grown systemic violence and social oppression, the political left often does not want to hear about individual freedom and responsibility. Since on many issues I tend to belong to a community of “white liberals” more than to a community of “white conservatives”, I will write in the first-person plural to develop a self-critical reflection. That is not to say I wouldn’t lean to the right as well sometimes. I guess I’m left in the middle.
Anyway, we liberal white folk, we think love for our neighbor should always include a recognition of our neighbor’s potential traumas. Especially in education we should be aware of the violence in its many guises children carry with them. We are all victims, one way or the other, be it of socio-economic circumstances, bullying, verbal and physical abuse, learning disabilities or mental disorders. Although the recognition of that reality is crucial to become a self-responsible person, it becomes a danger when it is used to simply excuse children for not taking part in the educational process as they should.
There is a significant difference in approaching children as being somewhat determined by their problems or as being free to learn despite their problems. In other words, there is a difference in approaching children as mere victims or as people with potential (think of the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect in this regard). Not being demanding is not a sign of love and respect in education. You might become popular and powerful among young people in that way, but in the meantime you deny them the dignity to develop their talents. In fact, you become the double of those severe teachers who are only strict to gain a sense of power as well. It does happen, although perhaps more or less unconsciously, that the question to let a pupil pass during deliberations eventually has more to do with a powerplay between teachers than with the interest of pupils themselves. In any case, children from a privileged background will once again find ways to compensate for voids in their education as a consequence of an all too soft approach, while disadvantaged peers in the same educational situation remain the victims of oppressive circumstances. The political left often forgets that type of privilege. Again some people can afford being spoilt during the educational process, while others can’t.
We, white privileged liberals, should be aware of potentially similar dynamics in our assessment of systemic injustices experienced by people of color. Malcolm X (1925-1965) criticized a liberal approach that turns out to simply abuse the victimhood of colored people in a fight over power with white conservatives. He came to the conclusion that many white liberals, consciously or not, have an interest in maintaining that victimhood. Presenting themselves as liberators of a problem they will in fact never solve, those liberals time and again become false Messiahs who gain power and wealth by locking up their followers in an idea of victimhood. In 1963, Malcolm X formulated it this way:
“In this crooked game of power politics here in America, the Negro, namely the race problem, integration and civil rights issues are all nothing but tools, used by the whites who call themselves liberals against another group of whites who call themselves conservatives, either to get into power or to retain power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into liberal and conservative camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.
The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way; the liberal is more deceitful, more hypocritical, than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor and by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or a weapon in this political football game, that is constantly raging between the white liberals and the white conservatives. The American Negro is nothing but a political football.”
For more, listen to:
Against this quite cynical stance of Malcolm X I would argue that the majority of us, white liberals, is genuinely touched by the fate of disadvantaged people, especially oppressed people of color. We feel for them. We sympathize with their just cause to better their socio-economic situation. We are prepared to stand next to them in the fight against racism. Because of the prevalence of drug abuse, poverty and crime in some of their neighborhoods, we understand that it is often very difficult for young black people to fully participate in a good educational process. Hell, we know that some of our own children, growing up in the best of circumstances, wouldn’t take their chances at school if it wasn’t for the high paid tutors to pull them through. Let alone that they would be able to take their chances if they would grow up like some of their disadvantaged black counterparts.
Blaming those black youngsters for their own situation would thus be hypocritical. This is all the more so because the system we receive our privilege from is the same system that keeps them oppressed. Moreover, as privileged white folk we are always partly responsible for maintaining that system and its inherent oppressive violence. That’s why we quite easily refer to socio-economic circumstances when we are confronted with criminal conduct of black youth. We are convinced that at least some of that conduct may be excused, since it is to be partially understood as a consequence of our own violence. And so it happens that by taking up the cause of the disadvantaged fellow citizen, we clear our conscience. We take the moral high ground by judging everything and everyone we perceive as oppressive or racist, while maintaining the same privilege and wealth as them.
Reflexes of the Privileged – The White Conservative in the White Liberal
On the surface we, white liberals, might seem very different from white racists who openly look down on poor and oppressed people of color. However, we don’t really change our white privileged mindset if we merely approach those downtrodden as “helpless victims” who cannot achieve anything without “white” help. At the same time we rave about Steven Pinker’s claim that the world becomes less violent because we rarely ever have to deal with violence directly. We rave about Rutger Bregman’s observation that most people are good until we have to personally deal with those good people doing bad things. In that case we very conveniently refer to the latter as “psychos” – or we use some other convenient monstrous depiction.
The same goes for our attitude towards people we perceive as having a “free spirit”. We rightfully celebrate someone like James Baldwin (1924-1987) as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement. However, we despise the 25 year old gay colleague who falls in love with a 17 year old adolescent. Perhaps this means that we would have only gossiped about James Baldwin if he would have been that colleague, because that is exactly what happened to him at 25.
This ambiguous attitude depends on the (physical or mental) distance between ourselves and the others we compare ourselves with. French American thinker René Girard (1923-2015) points out that others can become our heroes in a process of external mediation. This means that others who are somewhat external to our day-to-day life can become models or heroes we admire, and that they mediate some of our ambitions and (secret) dreams.
When those same others become part of the internal circle of our life, however, the dynamic of comparison may turn them into rivals. In a process of internal mediation our models easily become obstacles in the pursuit of our ambitions. They are often perceived as threats to our own position or way of life. That’s why we can stand the free spirited James Baldwin who is far away, and not the same free spirited person who is close by. The latter is often too intimidating. Just his mere presence is already experienced as competing with everything we unwittingly hold dear.
And so we listen to Charlie Parker (1920-1955) and Billie Holiday (1915-1959) in our hipster coffee houses, yet walk around the struggling musician, addicted to heroin, on the way home from work. We pity the poor young man who seems unable to escape a life of crime, yet condemn a poor young man from mixed descent like Diego Maradona, who did become successful and maintained his parents’ family from age 15. We cuddle the rascal as long as he remains on the streets, but when he rises to the level (or beyond) our privileged situation we tend to look down on him. We actually don’t understand that you can take the man out of the street, but never completely the street out of the man, although we do pay lip service to that sentence. Someone like Maradona is a hero of the poor and the oppressed, first and foremost.
The fact that we often feel sympathy for the poor and the oppressed but sometimes look down on their heroes, is a sign of our complacent, paternalistic and condescending supremacy. Maybe we do want to remain saviors, so the problem we want to save people from has to also remain. Disadvantaged communities don’t need this type of false Messiahs. Therefore, we privileged liberals should realize that we often are more concerned with taking down our conservative “enemy” than with actually focusing on the victims of systemic injustices in our institutions. We should truly reflect on the fact and its implications that our lives, spent in the privileged layers of society, have more in common with the lives of our privileged conservative neighbors than with the lives of the disadvantaged. As long as we use movements like Black Lives Matter in a polarized political powerplay that actually drowns the potential for a policy of social reform, we will remain the folk that Malcolm X characterized so sharply.
Taking Matters into Own Hands
On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shoots 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. He has already attempted suicide by then. His autism is one of the factors that makes him a target of heavy harassment throughout his youth. His story makes clear that it is not his autism per se that makes him violent to himself and to others, but the social rejection he experiences by bullies, time and again.
On June 2, 2020, a young man shoots David Dorn in front of a pawnshop in St. Louis. David Dorn is a 77-year-old African-American retired police captain. During the social unrest after the police murder of George Floyd, he tries to protect a friend’s pawnshop from looters. It becomes fatal to him. 24-year-old Stephan Cannon is arrested a week later on suspicion of murder.
What Nikolas Cruz and Stephan Cannon have in common is the experience of social rejection. Something like that has similar effects on the brain as physical violence. The former experiences systematic rejection because of his autism, the latter experiences systemic rejection because of his skin color. Both forms of rejection are to be condemned. Unfortunately, neither Cruz nor Cannon seem to experience this condemnation. As a result, they ultimately share another violent reality: they make innocent others, i.e. scapegoats pay for the frustrations they both experience in the course of their lives.
It might be tempting to further isolate perpetrators such as Cruz and Cannon and to explain their violent actions on the basis of a hyper-individual problem from which they would suffer. However, this is all too easy and actually indicates a cowardly attitude. The way communities are made up does play a role in the way individuals behave. In other words, each community has a share and a responsibility in the violence perpetrated by some individuals. Again, a social environment might not pull the trigger, but it often does hand the weapons (see above). This is not to say that perpetrators of violence themselves bear no overwhelming responsibility. Cruz and Cannon do have a freedom of choice. In the end, they pull the trigger – or not.
It is important that Black Lives Matter acknowledges that someone like Stephan Cannon is also one of those blacks who feel rejected in a society dominated by white privilege. Stephan Cannon’s violence, as a revenge against the violence of social discrimination, is an actual imitation and continuation of white supremacy violence. It is precisely for this reason that Black Lives Matter, in addition to making an analysis of the causes of revenge against innocent third parties, must also clearly condemn this form of violence. If it doesn’t, it puts that condemnation in the hands of its opponents. The latter can then continue to live with the illusion that they have nothing to do with the frustrations of a young criminal. In that case, a society dominated by white privilege remains blind to its own violence. The condemnation of violence is therefore not a side issue in the struggles of movements such as Black Lives Matter. It belongs to their essence, at least if they don’t want to become part of the violent hatred they thought they were opposing.
So it is important that protesters against injustices listen to people like Desiree Barnes (a former Obama aide, by the way):
Malcolm X did not advocate violence as a necessary means to solve the problem of racial injustices. Following Malcolm X, oppressed people of color are not helped by an approach that turns perpetrators of violence from their communities into mere victims of other violence. It only turns those communities as a whole into the poor victims privileged liberals paternalistically love to use in their rivalry over power against privileged conservatives. Again, if movements like Black Lives Matter do not condemn violence against innocent bystanders, those conservatives will easily put the blame for violence on the side of protesters and remain blind to the reality of systemic violent oppression.
In short, following Malcolm X and other African-American voices on the matter at hand, black people in America should not look at themselves through the eyes of some of the white conservatives or white liberals, who often treat them as criminals or victims respectively. They should look at themselves as people with the potential to create a more just society, who can take matters into their own hands, and who can become agents of change.
Regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Michael Jackson in the television production Leaving Neverland, people often conclude: “No-one who wasn’t there can possibly know what happened or didn’t happen in Michael Jackson’s bedroom!”
Actually, there is ample proof by now that significant parts of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse took place in non-existent beds of non-existent rooms on non-existent occasions.
At first sight, to believe that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile is one of the easiest things to do. It also seems the most rational, even most compassionate thing to do. Well, is it?
Those who believe in Michael Jackson’s guilt often point to his “unusual behavior” as circumstantial evidence corroborating that guilt. However, they do not consider the unusual as well as fraudulent behavior and proven outright lies of accusers like Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo, Víctor Gutiérrez, Diane Dimond, Dan Reed, Wade Robson and James Safechuck as circumstantial evidence that indicates Michael Jackson’s innocence.
Moreover, Michael Jackson’s accusers often refer to non-existent things as “proof” of Jackson’s guilt. Diane Dimond once enthusiastically referred to anon-existent videotape of Jackson molesting a boy. The videotape was allegedly owned by her convicted fraudulent friend Víctor Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez wrote a graphic pedo-fantasist book about the relationship between Jordan Chandler and Michael Jackson, based on anon-existent “secret diary” of Jordan Chandler. Despite being convicted multiple times for fabricating completely non-existent (pedophile) sex scandals against high profile figures, Víctor Gutiérrez for a long time remains an “expert” regarding Michael Jackson to (tabloid) media. Find out more about Gutiérrez by clicking here.
Víctor Gutiérrez even appears as “investigative journalist” in a 2007 UK television production on the late pop star. The title of that documentary is Michael Jackson: What Really Happened and it is produced by Channel 4. It is the same Channel 4 that, together with HBO, commissioned the 2019 film Leaving Neverland on Wade Robson’s and James Safechuck’s child sexual abuse allegations against the late Michael Jackson. Like the allegations by Robson and Safechuck, director Dan Reed’s “research” for Leaving Neverland seems primarily based on the pedo-fantasist fiction produced by Gutiérrez. Maybe this can be expected, as Reed clearly depends on the Gutiérrez based “information” of Channel 4. After all, in an interview for Slate’s The Gist podcast (with Mike Pesca, on March 1, 2019) Reed describes the origin of the Leaving Neverland film like this:
“At the outset, I had no special interest in Jackson. This project came about in a kind of random way and the timing is quite random.
I wish I could say I’d set out to make a big difference in the #MeToo movement. […]
[The project] came about through a casual conversation with a Channel 4 executive in the UK, and we were talking about what are the big stories out there that are slightly unresolved. […] I commissioned someone to do some research and they [sic] came up with this, I think it was like a foreign page reference to these two guys I’d never heard of, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.”
Dan Reed then goes on to say that he met each of them only once before recording their stories. Well, so far for the “research” of which the results are very similar to the pedo-fantasist fiction by Víctor Gutiérrez – watch:
James Safechuck in particular tells eerily similar stories about Michael Jackson as the ones found in the book by Gutiérrez and very convincingly claims, in Leaving Neverland, to have been molested numerous times in a 1988 non-existent train station.
James claims the abuse in the train station happened at the start of the abuse period, in the so-called “honeymoon period”. However, the train station opened in 1994, and by the time James could visit Neverland again with Michael Jackson present, it was already 1995. So molestation in that train station would have been, at the earliest, when James was 17 and significantly taller than Michael Jackson. After being confronted with this issue, Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed claimed that the abuse did take place in the train station, but that the time period of the abuse is wrong. This directly contradicts Safechuck’s own lawsuit in which he declares that the abuse began in 1988 and ended in 1992. It also goes against the whole narrative of the film that Michael Jackson was a veritable pedophile and lost interest in the boys once they reached adolescence.
Furthermore, Wade Robson and James Safechuck fail to mention Wade started “dating” Brandi Jackson thanks to her uncle Michael Jackson when Wade was about 9 years old. However, they do refer to Jackson’s non-existent jealousy regarding his alleged victims having relationships with girls. Related to this fact is the following claim by Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed (in an interview for !hit Australia, 12 March 2019). It is Reed’s attempt to discredit the testimony by Brandi Jackson. According to Dan Reed, Brandi only began seeing Wade after the majority of the alleged abuse (“hundreds and hundreds of times”, according to Wade) had already taken place:
“The intense period of Wade’s, it’s terrible to say it but sexual relationship with Michael Jackson was from the age of 7 to the age of 9. That was again, if you like, to use a dreadful word, the honeymoon period. The period when they were really seeing each other a lot and he makes it clear in the film he doesn’t really see Michael much after that.”
Exactly how the period of Wade being 7-9 years old could be the period when Wade and Michael “really saw each other a lot” will forever remain a mystery. At the time, the Robson family still lived in Australia. In short, Dan Reed is referring to a non-existent period of many Michael Jackson visits.
And so on. In any case, the reference to non-existent things as alleged “proof” are numerous in all the tales of Michael Jackson’s accusers. Exactly why these accusers should be believed despite their apparent lies, manipulations and fantasies is never quite explained by “believers” of Michael Jackson’s guilt.
It’s time to take a closer look. The testimonies (see below) of the potential victims of Michael Jackson reveal that the so-called circumstantial evidence accusers love to refer to is actually non-existent circumstantial evidence. Moreover, Michael Jackson rarely slept in the bed where children were sleeping alone, contrary to what many people believe.
Charles Thomson, an awarded investigative journalist (among others because of his work on a pedophile ring) and other journalists clarify key aspects of the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases which were omitted in Leaving Neverland. They reveal the absurdity of these cases:
2 #MeToo AND TRIAL BY (MASS) TABLOID MEDIA
HIGH PROFILE CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSE THAT TURN OUT TO BE TOO RIDICULOUS TO BE TRUE, CONTAINING A MYRIAD OF PROVABLE LIES, HURT THE OVERALL CREDIBILITY OF THE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE.
BY NOT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT WHAT HAS BEEN DECIDED ABOUT A PERSON’S GUILT IN A COURT OF LAW, AND BY ALLOWING A HIGH PROFILE MEDIA FRENZY REGARDING TWO ALLEGED VICTIMS WHOSE CASES WERE ALREADY DISMISSED TWICE BY A JUDGE, ONE FURTHER PARTICIPATES IN THE CREATION OF A CULTURE OF DOUBT CONCERNING THE ALLEGATIONS OF VICTIMS.
THUS,IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT REFUSES TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HOW EXACTLY AN ALLEGED HIGH PROFILE PERPETRATOR WAS ACQUITTED THROUGH DUE PROCESS AND IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT ALLOWS FOR NEW ACCUSATIONS IN A “TRIAL BY MEDIA” WITH EASILY PROVEN LIES AND HUGE MONETARY DEMANDS, THEN THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS ITSELF AN ENABLER OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND VIOLENCE (AS PERPETRATORS ONCE AGAIN CAN HIDE BEHIND A VEIL OF DOUBT).
SIMPLY LAZILY REFERRING TO A HIGH PROFILE PERPETRATOR’S ALLEGED “POWER” AND “GOOD LAWYERS” IS NOT ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY ANY TRIAL BY MEDIA. IT OPENS THE DOOR FOR WITCH HUNTS.
THAT’S WHY THE #MeToo MOVEMENT SHOULD BE VERY TROUBLED ABOUT A FILM LIKE LEAVING NEVERLAND.
AGAIN, IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS NOT TROUBLED BY A PRODUCTION LIKE LEAVING NEVERLAND, THEN THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS SIMPLY, HOWEVER TRAGICALLY, ONE MORE ENABLER OF THE RAPE CULTURE IT IS TRYING TO FIGHT.
HENCE, FOR INSTANCE, #WADEANDJAMESDONOTSPEAKFORME USED BY A GROWING NUMBER OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVORS.
AS MANY AN ACCUSED BUT OFFICIALLY ACQUITTED PERSON WILL TESTIFY, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE WHO SIMPLY DON’T BELIEVE ONE WAS INNOCENT. THIS MAKES IT VERY EASY FOR FRAUDS TO LAUNCH NEW ALLEGATIONS AGAINST SOMEONE WHO WAS ACQUITTED BUT STILL SUFFERS FROM A BAD REPUTATION, ESPECIALLY IF THAT PERSON IS NO LONGER HERE TO DEFEND HIMSELF.
According to a Vox/Morning Consult survey (published April 5, 2018),
“Women who supported #MeToo were actually more concerned than women as a whole about some potential ill effects of the movement. Sixty-eight percent of #MeToo supporters were very or somewhat concerned about false accusations, for instance, compared with 63 percent of all women.”
According to the same survey,
“Women’s concerns are often rooted in a desire for the movement to succeed.
It’s not surprising that women who were supportive of #MeToo were also more likely than average to have certain concerns, said Sarah J. Jackson, a professor of communication studies at Northeastern University who studies racial and gender justice activism. People who support the movement “understand the stakes,” Jackson said.
In her recent interviews with feminist Twitter users, she said, she found a keen awareness of the ways feminist causes can be undermined — an awareness that false rape accusations, for instance, can be portrayed in ways that harm anti-rape activism as a whole.”
Brett Barnes, Karlee Barnes, Omer Bhatti (O-Bee), Aaron Carter, Eddie Cascio, Frank Cascio, Kevin Macaulay Culkin, Bela Farkas, Corey Feldman, Brandi Jackson, Taj Jackson, Sean Lennon, Harriet Lester, Emmanuel Lewis, William Ray Norwood Jr. (Ray J), Danny Oliver, Kelley Parker, Alfonso Ribeiro, David Rothenberg (Dave Dave), Anton Schleiter, Franziska Schleiter.
What do these people have in common?
Well, for one thing, they all got to know Michael Jackson up close and personal when they were young boys and girls.
Secondly, they have all publicly, repeatedly and emphatically denied that Michael Jackson ever approached them inappropriately when they were children. They have claimed the opposite, testifying to nothing but good memories about their experiences with the late pop star.
I will wholeheartedly admit that this doesn’t mean that Michael Jackson didn’t molest any other children. However, often the testimonies in defense of Michael Jackson are read in light of the few allegations of child sexual abuse against him by those who believe that he indeed was a pedophile. Some of the “believers” then go to great lengths to explain the psychology of the people who claim, as adults, that they were never molested by Michael Jackson while they might very probably have been molested. This is a patronizing, belittling and arrogant attitude to listen to people’s testimonies, to say the least.
I would like to propose the opposite approach without, however, “explaining away” the possibility of Michael Jackson as a child molester beforehand on purely speculative psychological grounds. So I suggest to interpret the few allegations in light of the numerous testimonies in favor of Michael Jackson, after which certain non-speculative facts can be considered in relation to the allegations.
Before I go on, some people might want to know if I’m a fan of Michael Jackson. The answer is that I am a fan of his music, although certainly more of his early work as an adult solo-artist. I grew up on his first three albums, but his music generally is not my pick of the day. My taste in music is quite broad, not only in the “classical” sections, but also in the pop and rock sections. Aerosmith, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Marc Cohn, DMX, Fleetwood Mac, King’s X, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Toto and U2 are among my favorite artists. One of my all-time favorite bands is Dan Reed Network, which is quite ironic since the director’s name of the controversial HBO-production Leaving Neverland is also Dan Reed.
I wanted to point this out because some people assume all kinds of things when you strongly defend the possibility that Michael Jackson wasn’t a pedophile at all. They assume that Michael Jackson must be your big idol, and that you belong to some sort of “crazy fan cult” that will deny the so-called truth about Michael Jackson being a pedophile at all costs, even in the face of “overwhelming” evidence or indications. I can honestly say that I would not have any problem admitting that Michael Jackson most likely was a pedophile if the evidence or circumstantial evidence would point in that direction. On the contrary, if that were indeed the case, then his victims would be welcome to receive my full support. However, in a world that is founded upon the so-called Age of Reason or Enlightenment, judgments should be made on the basis of facts and these facts point in the direction of false accusations. All the extremely thorough research done by legal and judicial authorities over the years, time and again exonerate Michael Jackson.
Dan Reed (the director of the HBO production Leaving Neverland) believes that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile, as is also claimed by Wade Robson. There are a number of people who clearly qualify as potential victims because they slept in the same room as Jackson and had a close relationship with him (Jackson could have “groomed” them). Other children, who visited Neverland Ranch under the guidance of tutors and as a group (often in the absence of Michael Jackson) less easily qualify.
The vast majority of people who qualify as potential victims have testified that they never experienced any abuse by Michael Jackson (see below for some of their testimonies). This does not fit the pattern of the serial pedophile Dan Reed and others want to establish so eagerly.
Already in 1993, following the first case of allegations against Michael Jackson by the Chandler family, 40-60 children were interviewed by prosecutors (some sources mention up to 100 children). None of these children corroborated the story of the accuser’s side. So what about the exceptions, the people who did level allegations against Michael Jackson? Are their stories credible? It is time to take a closer look at the specific cases against the late pop star.
4 NOTE ON THE TWO CASES OF CSA DURING MICHAEL JACKSON’S LIFETIME
It is good to remember some important facts about the two cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) that were brought against Michael Jackson during his lifetime.
Regarding the Jordan Chandler case of 1993, people should consider the following facts. Jordan Chandler’s parents are divorced. His father, Evan, is a Hollywood dentist who wants to make it in show business. He becomes very disgruntled with his ex-wife June, his son Jordan and Michael Jackson when they don’t sustain the level of communication he expects from them. In a lengthy taped phone conversation between Evan and David Schwartz (Jordan’s stepfather) Evan reveals his plans to “destroy ex-wife June and Michael Jackson” if they don’t return to his desired level of contact. Evan Chandler suggests his plan is to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. If his ex-wife and Michael Jackson do re-establish contact with him, he promises not to go through with his plan. In other words, Evan Chandler clearly aims to blackmail Michael Jackson. Whatever really happens between Michael Jackson and his son is of no importance to him. When Michael Jackson resists Evan Chandler’s extortion attempts, Evan Chandler tries everything to force his son to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Jordan Chandler denies anything inappropriate ever happened between him and Michael Jackson multiple times, until he finally succumbs to the pressure of his father. Evan Chandler threatens to go public with the allegations if Michael Jackson refuses to pay a settlement. Michael Jackson indeed refuses, after which Evan seeks monetary compensations in an official civil case against Jackson. Michael Jackson and his legal team file for the criminal case to go before the civil case so he can clear his name, but to no avail. After the civil case is settled (for $15,331,250) in which an official document makes sure that this is not an admission of guilt on the part of Michael Jackson, Evan Chandler is no longer interested in pursuing criminal charges against Michael Jackson. The criminal case goes on, though, but is rejected by two different Grand Juries – in any case, Michael Jackson did not buy his way out of court!
Jackson’s legal team had advised him to settle the civil case so they could assure a fair upcoming criminal trial. Moreover, Jackson was mentally and physically exhausted by the turmoil at the time and huge financial interests of his employees were at stake (Jackson had already cancelled part of the Dangerous tour). As the Chandlers eventually didn’t press criminal charges, Michael Jackson would later consider the settlement of the civil case one of the major mistakes of his life.
After the whole circus winds down, Jordan Chandler no longer wants anything to do with his parents anymore and files for legal emancipation. At the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005, his mother declares that she hadn’t been in contact with her son for 11 years. Jordan at some point even obtains a permanent restraining order against the father who had forced him to level allegations against Michael Jackson. If there is one manipulative, abusive person in this whole situation, it is indeed Jordan Chandler’s father Evan Chandler. Not only other people become the victim of his behavior. Eventually Evan Chandler commits suicide, a few months after Michael Jackson’s passing.
Tom Mesereau, Jackson’s lawyer in the 2005 case, refers to Jordan Chandler and the 1993 civil case against Jackson in the following way (in a lecture for Harvard Law School, November 5, 2005) – Mesereau begins by saying that Jordan Chandler never showed up to testify in 2005:
The second case against Michael Jackson during his lifetime revolves around Gavin Arvizo, which culminates in the 2005 criminal trial. The Arvizo family turns out to have a history of (at times successful) extortion attempts. On August 27, 1998, when he is only eight years old, Gavin steals two school uniforms and two school uniform pants from a J.C. Penney Department Store. Strangely enough, the incident ends with a settlement between the Arvizo family and J.C. Penney in which the store pays the family $152,200. Janet Arvizo, the mother, claimed that she had been touched inappropriately by security guards. The file about the case clearly indicates her manipulative tactics.
Apart from the Michael Jackson and the J.C. Penney cases, the Arvizos get also caught being involved in fraudulent and manipulative activities against actor and comedian Chris Tucker, comedian George Lopez, television host Jay Leno and editor Connie Keenan. Mother Janet Arvizo also committed welfare fraud.
A very important fact is the changing of the timeline of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse by the Arvizos. The Michael Jackson Allegationswebsite points out the consequences of this (see also below, Rolling Stone’s account of the same situation):
“Initially the Arvizos claimed that the molestation started as soon as they returned from Miami with Jackson, on February 7, 2003. This version of the story is also represented in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint, filed on December 18, 2003.
However, later they changed this story and said that Jackson started molesting Gavin afterFebruary 20. As you will see, this timeline change was not just a minor correction. It significantly changed the narrative of the Arvizos’ initial story.
According to the story that the Arvizos ended up with due to the timeline change, Jackson started molesting Gavin while the CPS and the police investigated, while there was a huge public attention on him and Gavin because of the Bashir documentary, and while his PR team was working overtime on damage control because of the public relations backlash resulting from the Bashir documentary. To believe the Arvizos’ story you have to believe that all the while this was happening (including a police and a CPS investigation), Jackson suddenly started molesting Gavin Arvizo, even though for three years he had not touched him and not even trusted him and his family. This is exactly the story that the Arvizo family ended up with after they were forced to change their initial timeline because of the discovery of the ‘rebuttal tape’ raw footage.”
According to some people, Michael Jackson must have had tons of victims of child sexual abuse. During his lifetime, two cases came out. The first case turned out to be concocted by an overambitious, money hungry and abusive father. His son Jordan didn’t want anything to do with him anymore after he was forced to level allegations against Michael Jackson and after the case wound down. The second case was concocted by a family who had a long history of extortion attempts and who were caught lying on all counts during the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005.
Surprise, surprise? Considering all the supportive testimonies of people who knew Michael Jackson when they were children, it is probably no coincidence that of all the alleged potential victims the only cases that came out were clearly non-credible extortion attempts. There is no avalanche of victims coming out of the closet, unlike the cases against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, for instance. On the contrary, people like Brett Barnes, Kelley Parker, Harriet Lester, Brandi and Taj Jackson and Anton and Franziska Schleiter are asking Wade Robson and James Safechuck to stop lying about Michael Jackson.
5 A REPEATING PATTERN
Concerning the cases of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the pattern to seek monetary compensations for alleged abuse repeats itself. This is a fact. Moreover, Robson and Safechuck were also caught lying on multiple occasions regarding their cases, not only by investigative journalists, but also by judges. This is a fact. It is no coincidence that their cases were already thrown out of court twice. The judge even reprimanded Robson, saying that “NO RATIONAL FACT-FINDER COULD POSSIBLY BELIEVE ROBSON’S SWORN STATEMENT.”
It is probably also no coincidence that Robson first made allegations when he was experiencing financial troubles and troubles regarding his career (he was not accepted as director for a Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tribute show). And it is probably also no coincidence that Safechuck “suddenly realized” that he had been abused by Michael Jackson only days after the Safechuck family business got sued for nearly a million dollars.
The HBO production LeavingNeverland, about the Robson and Safechuck cases, leaves out all the kind of above mentioned information. It is therefore an unethical piece of journalism for several reasons: it contains significant and proven lies; it profits from a deceased person’s bad reputation who can no longer defend himself; it offers a prosecution’s case veiled as a “testimony of child sexual abuse”; it unashamedly profits from the sympathy of victims of proven child sexual abuse during this #MeToo era. In short, Leaving Neverland is a mere “trial by media” – a witch hunt of increasingly low credibility value.
With Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed finds himself in the company of people like Diane Dimond and Víctor Gutiérrez and their stories about Michael Jackson. Both Dimond and Gutiérrez are tabloid journalists of the worst kind, the latter being convicted for blatantly lying and making up stories on multiple occasions, also regarding Michael Jackson.
Víctor Gutiérrez is a proven and convicted pedo-fantasist like Carl Beech. However, the (tabloid) media did not dismiss the NAMBLA sympathizer. Although he was convicted a first time in 1998 for his allegations of pedosexual fantasies against Michael Jackson, Gutiérrez was treated as a reliable source and specialist by the (tabloid) media in the wake of the 2005 criminal trial against Michael Jackson. It’s quite unbelievable, but it happened. Apparently, when it has to do with Michael Jackson, some “journalists” have no problem disregarding even the slightest minimum of rationality and ethics.
It is now proven that Wade Robson read multiple tabloid stories while he was preparing his (ammended) complaint. He mailed those stories to himself. Robson also declared reading books about the pattern of child sexual abuse, supposedly to make sense of his own experience. Whatever the level of truth in his own story, the tabloid stories and the books on child sexual abuse clearly helped Robson to put the pieces of his own story together. It is also proven that Robson knew about information from tabloid stories not being true, and yet he used that information in his (ammended) complaint (an infamous Charlie Michaels story about a certain Mother’s Day in particular). As for James Safechuck, many elements of his story are so comparable to the story that Víctor Gutiérrez concocted in Michael Jackson Was My Lover: The Secret Diary of Jordie Chandler (Alamo Square Distributors, 1996) that they seem copy pasted from that book.
The question to determine Michael Jackson’s guilt should not be whether or not the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck “fit the pattern” of child sexual abuse. The question should be whether or not the different elements of their stories, which constitute that pattern of child sexual abuse, are actual facts as opposed to lies.
An approach to reality that reduces reality to “correspondence to a pattern” is an externalization of what Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) calls “totality”.
A “pattern” is a way to approach reality. It is not reality itself. Knowledge of a pattern can be used by deceivers to “sell” a story as “truth”. Tabloid journalism excels in this respect. The testimonies below (see also the Open Letter by the Schleiter Family) challenge the standard “totalitarian” story of Michael Jackson as a textbook pedophile.
The tabloid background and multiple proven lies (established by judges) didn’t help the cases of Robson and Safechuck (who contacted Robson and was eventually represented by the same legal team) regarding their credibility. Several victims of child sexual abuse were outraged about Leaving Neverland and spoke out against Wade Robson and James Safechuck once they knew more about the history of their cases.
Those who still manage to be intellectually dishonest by referring to the blatant untruths in Leaving Neverland as “unimportant details misremembered because of trauma” should realize that those so-called unimportant details are not presented as such in Leaving Neverland. They are presented as key elements in the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
In short, to minimize the untruths regarding those key elements as allegedly “being misremembered because of trauma” is ABUSE OF REAL TRAUMA:
6 THE QUESTION OF VICTIMHOOD
It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that people who knew Michael Jackson since their childhood only say nice things about him “because they remain under the manipulative spell of his pop star aura.” Let us listen to those testimonies first.
It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that everyone who defends Michael Jackson “must be a fan.” Let us first find out if his ardent defenders are indeed all fans and if that is the main reason why they defend him.
It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that big fans of Michael Jackson “would not admit that he was a pedophile even if the evidence pointed in that direction.” Let us first find out why many fans don’t believe that he was a pedophile – do they really have strong reasonable and plausible arguments, or is it mainly a rationalization of emotional impulses?
It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the Santa Barbara County Superior Court would stand “no chance against the power and money of Michael Jackson.” Let us first find out what kind of investigations were conducted, how the raids on his Neverland ranch were done, how the police took photographs of his genitals and how he was treated when they arrested him.
I think it is important to move beyond those kinds of speculative assumptions because judgment based on assumptions ultimately damages the so-called #MeToo movement big time. The fact that victims have a voice is a breakthrough. As scholars have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian influence on the western world plays a tremendous part in this achievement – Gil Bailie, for instance (Violence Unveiled – Humanity at the Crossroads, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1995, p. 20):
“There’s plenty of truth in the revised picture of Western history that the young are now routinely taught, the picture of the West’s swashbuckling appetite for power, wealth, and dominion. What’s to be noted is that it is we, and not our cultural adversaries, who are teaching it to them. It is we, the spiritual beneficiaries of that less than always edifying history, who automatically empathize more with our ancestors’ victims than with our ancestors themselves. If we are tempted to think that this amazing shift is the product of our own moral achievement, all we have to do is look around at how shamelessly we exploit it for a little power, wealth, and dominion of our own.
The fact is that the concern for victims has gradually become the principal gyroscope in the Western world. Even the most vicious campaigns of victimization – including, astonishingly, even Hitler’s – have found it necessary to base their assertion of moral legitimacy on the claim that their goal was the protection or vindication of victims. However savagely we behave, and however wickedly and selectively we wield this moral gavel, protecting or rescuing innocent victims has become the cultural imperative everywhere the Biblical influence has been felt.“
However, the perversion of the achievement to listen to “the voice of the victim” threatens to silence the voice of real victims again: people pretending to be victims murderously persecute others in the name of “the victim” in order to gain power and end up making ever more victims. As French-American thinker René Girard points out (Evolution and Conversion – Dialogues on the Origins of Culture, Continuum, London, New York, 2007, p. 236):
“We have experienced various forms of totalitarianism that openly denied Christian principles. There has been the totalitarianism of the Left, which tried to outflank Christianity; and there has been totalitarianism of the Right, like Nazism, which found Christianity too soft on victims. This kind of totalitarianism is not only alive but it also has a great future. There will probably be some thinkers in the future who will reformulate this principle in a politically correct fashion, in more virulent forms, which will be more anti-Christian, albeit in an ultra-Christian caricature. When I say more Christian and more anti-Christian, I imply the figure of the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ is nothing but that: it is the ideology that attempts to outchristianize Christianity, that imitates Christianity in a spirit of rivalry.
You can foresee the shape of what the Anti-Christ is going to be in the future: a super-victimary machine that will keep on sacrificing in the name of the victim.“
The #MeToo movement should be about a concern for real victims, also victims of false allegations. The focus, time, energy and money of a society should go to real victims, not pretenders. That’s why the #MeToo movement should be concerned about false allegations. It should not lend itself to sustain the condemnation of people in a mere trial by powerful media, especially if those people are no longer here to defend themselves and were already acquitted on all counts during their lifetime. Regarding Michael Jackson, we should focus on what can be known for a fact before speculating and jumping to conclusions.
In any case, the people who have testified against Michael Jackson in a court of law were all caught on multiple and significant lies, while the people who testified in his defense were not (apart from Wade Robson, who claims to have lied in the only criminal trial against Michael Jackson in 2005). Also, many (if not all) people who testified against Michael Jackson sold their stories to the tabloids for big money. These are facts. It is also a fact that Michael Jackson was acquitted in 2005 and declared not guilty on all counts. Despite this declaration, many still had doubts about him and Michael Jackson would suffer the consequences of this trial mentally and physically. Michael Jackson never really recovered from the 2005 trial and was virtually destroyed. He would die four years later. The HBO production Leaving Neverland, true or not, further kills the reputation of an already dead man who can no longer defend himself “in the name of the victim”.
To get a clearer picture of the “regular” experiences with Michael Jackson, as opposed to the four exceptional cases of child sexual abuse against him (the Jordan Chandler case, the Gavin Arvizo case, and the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases), below are some voices of people who are speculated about a lot, but are rarely been listened to.
7 VOICES OF “NEVERLAND CHILDREN” ON BEHALF OF AN ACCUSED DEAD MAN
SEAN LENNON (son of the late John Lennon) in exclaim! March 6, 2019 – emphasis mine:
“I think that was a super strange time, but not in a dark way. In an odd way, in a unique way. It was odd because Bubbles was all dressed up in dandy outfits and we were all running around playing videogames with this chimpanzee. It was a surreal scene. It was kind of part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part Dr. Doolittle, and part, you know, ‘Motown’s Greatest Hits’ or something. It was a convergence of a lot of disparate universes that merged for a while. And that was a strange scene but it was really fun. I mean it was amazing to hang out with all those animals, but there was also something very eccentric about it, you know?
He was the coolest dude I’d ever met for sure. I mean people, you know, they have a lot of opinions about him and like anything else, my opinions can only be based on my experience. But he was super fun to hang out with. I mean he was like a big kid, you know?
So yeah, the time that I got to spend with him was – it was like Disneyland all day long. He’d set up water balloon fights and pie fights in basketball courts. Just really fun stuff where he’d like invite all his friends over and there’d be two teams and everyone would dress in garbage bags and throw pies at each other. It was like super high-level fun and it was orchestrated fun and insanity.”
ANTON AND FRANZISKA SCHLEITER, An Open Letter, Enough is Enough, March 4, 2019
“In 1995 we first met Michael at a German TV Show. That day, something that we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams happened. It was the start of a unique friendship. A friendship so normal yet so unusual and magical. One that would last until the very last day of Michael’s life and will continue forever in our hearts.
From the beginning we knew that what we were privileged to experience, was a treasure worth protecting. Especially regarding the world we live in, with media that wants to make up stories that sell, rather than seeking the truth and people who want to read shocking headlines rather than knowing the truth. Over the years we were offered over a quarter million of Euros for interviews, but no money in the world could ever materialize a value that would stand above the value of our memories with Michael. This is the reason why we have never spoken a word publicly about our friendship.
Something has changed our mind about speaking up lately. The utter shocking news of a new documentary that would portray Michael once again as a child molester. Even writing this sentence, putting his name and that word together, makes us feel sick to our stomach. Michael never behaved inappropriately towards us and we neither witnessed nor suspected him doing it to someone else ever.
We have been angry with the public treatment of Michael many times in the past, but we chose to stay silent – hoping the truth to run marathons and protecting Michael and his privacy.
And we had good reason to be angry, for example when Anton was falsely portrayed in a German tabloid as having a homosexual affair with Michael. We witnessed first hand how ugly the media can be and how they make up most terrible lies just to have a story. When our father denied to talk to an inquiring journalist on the phone, the story read something like ‘Father refuses to defend Michael’. Unfortunately scandals sell much better than anything else.
Spending a lot of time with Michael, we experienced two-faced people more than once. When Michael was in the room, they acted most charming with seemingly good intentions, but once he turned his cheek they would become rude and you could sense that their intentions were not that good after all. In front of us, they didn’t care showing their real face. We were only the shy German family in the background, not worth paying attention to. But we were observing and slowly but surely we started to get a glance at the often difficult world Michael was living in. It was a world in which it was so very difficult to trust.
And yet Michael was kind to everybody he would meet and believed in the good so strongly. Some would call it naiv, to us it was just one of his character traits that made us look up to him. Giving everybody a chance, even if you’ve been fooled by people over and over, really is remarkable. And it makes us even more sad to know, that many took and still take advantage of this.
Being around Michael made us realize that everybody wanted a piece of him. We often wondered why, from all people, he would let us into his circle of trusted friends. Now we understand it was maybe the fact that we didn’t want anything from him and simply enjoyed being together. When he offered to pay for our education, our parents denied because it was too much of a gift. It was a no brainer for us then, but looking back on it now, it was probably something that Michael didn’t experience often.
Those who wanted a piece of his fame or his money did not care about Michael as a person or about his kind heart and uplifting spirit. It is truly a shame and we almost feel bad for those people in a way, because blinded by money, they probably didn’t realize that they just had the honor to meet a person that has a uniqueness about him that the world would only witness every other century. His music, his message, his creative and genius mind was truly one of a kind.
While our friendship with Michael was very normal in a sense that we hung out, chatted on the phone, went to the movies just like friends do, it was also magical in the sense that Michael had a warmth about him that was captivating. You would immediately feel comfortable and safe around him. He was one of the most humble persons we’ve ever met, always putting the well being of others over his own.
There was never a single moment of doubt of his pure heart and intentions, which also led our parents to allow us to travel alone with Michael.
Though we’re speaking up today, we still want to protect and respect our personal stories. What we can say though, is that each and every time we had to say good bye to Michael, we all cried because we knew how much we would miss him. The times we spent together were the most fun. And while Michael was always up for a good water balloon fight, he was also a great mentor, teaching us about life and sharing his incredible knowledge. We can remember how excited he was to tell us about the Wright brothers when he learnt that we had never heard of them. He gave us books and movies of stories we could learn from and he was eager for us to develop our talents.
We understand that our story can only put a small piece of the puzzle together for those who are still in doubt of what to believe about Michael Jackson. To those who still doubt that he was innocent, we can only plea to simply do your own research. And if the fact that Michael had to endure every possible raid of privacy in his trial in 2005 and still was found NOT GUILTY on ALL CHARGES, if this fact is still not enough for you, then maybe you can simply listen to his music.
Meeting many of his fans over the years, we were astounded how much they ‘got him’ as a person, even though they never personally met him. Michael and his fans had a unique friendship of their own. He trusted them and it is no wonder why they continue to trust in his good heart. They simply listened to his music and to his words. If you listen closely you’d know all of his stories and you’d know what kind of person he was. You would know that his mission for his time on earth was not only to bring happiness in form of melodies and rhythm but also to change the world to the better.
Boy, how he could inspire us to be our best selves and to show more love and respect to each other! Yet people choose to blow up lies that threaten to overshadow all of the greatness this man has brought.
Enough is enough.
– Today we speak up for Michael because he deserves better and because he was the best friend we could have ever imagined.
Anton and Franziska and our parents Marlies and Wolfgang
Well, Michael was the big brother I never had quite honestly. He was everything to me as a kid. He taught me so many things. He’s taught me about loving animals, vegetarianism, animal rights, environmental issues, caring about your fans, how to treat your fans, the fact that the moment that you meet your fans may just be a fleeting moment to you and something that you’re in the middle of things that you got to take time for. But to them – they’re going to remember this moment for the rest of their lives. So how important it is with that exchange and how you treat them a lot.
We discussed everything, you know what I mean, and it was literally like a big brother, little brother relationship where we’ve talked about everything, I would talk about the abuse that I endured in school which is also in the book, the abuse with my parents and also the difficulties of having to go to work everyday instead of being able to play. You know both of us shared that similarity.
We were robbed of our childhoods. We weren’t able to just have sleepovers or go play at the arcade with other kids or take your bike down the street and do what you want. That didn’t exist for us. That wasn’t a reality. So instead we ought to, you know, go from meeting to meeting and, you know, sit in a room full of people all day and be judged and have people question you about everything that you do, again, life under the microscope, totally different, a very different perspective than most people ever have the experience of having.”
“I don’t know a lot of things that happened in the years I wasn’t around, but all I can tell you is remarking about the person that I know, the person that was my close friend, that was like a brother to me. Michael was not that guy.
He was a guy who was so innocent, so kind of sheltered, you couldn’t even swear around him. You couldn’t talk about drugs, you couldn’t talk about nude women, you couldn’t talk about sex. You couldn’t talk about anything, because he was a very religious man for much of the early stages of his life and career.
When I got arrested, I was afraid, to be honest with you, that he’d never talk to me again because he had such a clean image — that I really expected that he’d just be like, ‘see ya!’ you know? And that really showed me the value of what type of person he was.
The fact that when I did get arrested, even though his image was still squeaky clean and by all rights he could have stepped aside and moved me back, but he didn’t.
He called me. I got that message on my answering machine, which said, ‘Hi Corey, it’s Michael. Is everything ok? Call me if you need me.’ You know, he was a friend. He was supportive. And thank God for that.”
FELDMAN: “I told the police [the names of Hollywood pedophiles]. In fact if anyone wants to go back to 1993, when I was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Police Department. I sat there and gave them the names. They are on record. They have all of this information, but they were scanning Michael Jackson. All they cared about was trying about to find something on Michael Jackson.”
LAUER: “Who you said, by the way, did not abuse you.”
FELDMAN: “Who Michael was innocent. And that was what the interview was about with the pollice in 1993. I told them, he is not that guy. And they said, maybe you don’t understand your friend. And I said, no, I know the difference between pedophiles and somebody that is not a pedophile because I have been molested. Here’s the names, go investigate.”
“I have nothing but amazing memories from the entire time that I knew Michael and was friends with him. I can’t say enough good things. He just had this unconditional love. He was so pure. And… I just have so many great memories.”
KEVIN MACAULAY CULKIN
For CNN, Larry King Live, May 27, 2004 [also talking about the criminal trial back then, in which Macaulay Culkin would eventually testify on behalf of his friend Michael Jackson] – emphasis mine:
KING: “What happened at the house? That’s what all the things that people are concerned about.”
CULKIN: “That’s what’s so weird.”
KING: “What did happen?”
CULKIN: “Nothing happened. You know, nothing really. I mean, we played video games. We, you know, played at his amusement park.”
KING: “Did he sleep in the bed?”
CULKIN: “The thing is with that whole thing, oh, you slept in the same bedroom as him. It’s like,I don’t think you understand, Michael Jackson’s bedroom is two stories and it has like three bathrooms and this and that. So, when I slept in his bedroom, yes, but you understand the whole scenario. And the thing is with Michael he’s not good at explaining himself and he never really has been, because he’s not a very social person. You’re talking about someone who has been sheltered and sheltering himself also for the last like 30 years. And so, he’s not very good at communicating to people and not good at conveying what he’s actually trying to say to you. So, when he says something like that people – he doesn’t quite understand why people react the way that they do.”
KING: “Why do you think he likes young people so much?”
CULKIN: “Because the same reason why he liked me, was the fact that I didn’t care who he was. That was the thing. I talked to him like he was a normal human being and kids do that to him because he’s Michael Jackson the pop singer, but he’s not the God, the ‘king of pop’ or anything like that. He’s just a guy who is actually very kid-like himself and wants to go out there and wants to play video games with you.”
KING: “Did your parents encourage it?”
CULKIN: “They weren’t against it. It wasn’t like they encouraged it or pushing me upon it. I wanted to hang out with him and they were fine.”
KING: “What do you make of what he’s going through now?”
CULKIN: “Like I said, it’s unfortunate, and you know, it’s a circus.”
KING: “Do you think it’s a bad rap?”
CULKIN: “You know, I think so. Yes. Listen, look what happened the first time this happened to him. If someone had done something like that to my kid, I wouldn’t settle for some money. I’d make sure the guy was in jail. It just really goes to show as soon as they got the money they ran. I mean, that’s what really happened the first time. And so I don’t know. It’s a little crazy and I kind of have taken a step back from the whole thing, because it is a bit of a circus. And you know, if the same thing was happening to me, I wouldn’t want to drag him into it and vice versa. So I try my best to take a distance from it, but like I said he’s still a friend of mine.”
KING: “If they asked you to be a character witness, would you appear?”
CULKIN: “I guess so, but probably not. Like I said, it’s crazy, and I don’t really want to be a part of it.”
KING: “You like him.”
CULKIN: “I like him and he’s a friend of mine. I’m not saying I wouldn’t. It hasn’t been brought up to me and I don’t think he’d want me to either. Just because, like I said, if the same thing was happening to me…”
KING: “What reaction has happened to you from all of this?”
CULKIN: “What do you mean?”
KING: “Do people inquire of you a lot about it?”
CULKIN: “Sometimes. You know, people always have their opinions. It’s funny. People always talk to me about him, because you know, I’m one of these people who will tell you anything about my life, really, to get me going. You know, so yes, I mean, I’ve openly and freely talked about him and stuff like that. But overall, you know, he’s just a good friend of mine.”
“It’s almost easy to try to say it was ‘weird’ or whatever, but it wasn’t, because it made sense.
He reached out to me ’cause a lot of things were happening big and fast with me. I think he identified with that.
[…] I think that’s one of the reasons also why we got along, is that everyone’s always thoroughly impressed by him. So the fact that somebody treated him like a normal person… It was that simple.”
EMMANUEL LEWIS, CBC Television, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, October 10, 2012 – emphasis mine (by the way: notice how the website “MJFacts” manipulated the following photo, adding bottles and changing a few other details):
You know this guy is great. You know Michael’s got a heart of gold. You know that he wouldn’t do any of those things that people were talking about. Later on, of course, after he died, a few of those people came forward and said, ‘You know, it never happened, we didn’t do anything, was pressured by parents, by this or that; we needed money real bad…’ and they figured that was a way to get out. And there’s people out there in the press that actually came clean. But it’s a little late, you know. Thanks a lot, you know what I mean? You put him through hell.”
EDDIE AND FRANK CASCIO, Oprah, December 6, 2010 – emphasis mine:
FRANK CASCIO: “We grew up with Michael, literally, since he was three and I was five, and so being around him was just normal.”
EDDIE CASCIO: “He really just was so humble and then never really played off on the fact that he was, you know, Michael Jackson, you know. He was just Michael. He was just our friend.”
“I believe that Michael was a great person. He has never hurt a soul and I am happy to have been his friend for all these years, and been a dedicated friend.”
Emmanuel Lewis tweets a couple of times on behalf of Michael Jackson’s defense after the airing of Leaving Neverland, the HBO production containing new allegations against the late pop star. Already on May 8, 2013, after Wade Robson goes public for the first time with his allegations against Michael Jackson, Brett Barnes tweets in Michael Jackson’s defense:
“I wish people would realise, in your last moments on this earth, all the money in the world will be of no comfort. My clear conscience will.”
To this day he keeps defending his late friend.
8 RETURNING ONCE AGAIN TO THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MICHAEL JACKSON
1993 – THE JORDAN CHANDLER CASE
In a taped phone conversation with David Schwartz (Jordan Chandler’s stepfather), Evan Chandler threatens to make allegations against Michael Jackson and his ex-wife if they continue to refuse communicating with him. Eventually, Evan indeed forces his son Jordan to make allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Once the allegations are made, Evan manages to make an appointment with Jackson and his lawyers. When he sees Michael Jackson on the day of the meeting, Evan walks up to him and amicably hugs the pop star – the alleged molester of Evan’s son Jordan. The hug is described by Evan’s own brother, Jordan’s uncle Ray, among others. Jackson refuses to settle for money at that point. Therefore, Evan goes public with the allegations.
Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly try to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which are rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allows the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lose four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceeding is completed. In other words, Michael Jackson is eager to go to trial to clear his name! The Chandlers, on the other hand, turn out to be only interested in a civil suit of which they want a settlement before any criminal proceedings.
Eventually, Jackson’s legal team advises him to settle the civil case for $15,331,250 so focus can be on the upcoming criminal trial. Jackson makes sure that an official statement is signed that this is not an admission of guilt. Michael Jackson’s legal team prepares for the criminal trial. The prosecution presents the case to two different Grand Juries, but the case is rejected twice. The Chandlers are not interested in cooperating with the authorities for the criminal case. Clearly they are not interested in a conviction of their son’s alleged molester.
Rolling Stone describes the end of the case as follows (January 29, 2019):
“Jordan Chandler went on to attain legal emancipation from both of his parents. June Chandler testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial and said she had not spoken to her son in 11 years. Evan Chandler, who closed his dental practice in 1994, killed himself in 2009.”
People should make up their own mind about this whole matter, but to me this looks like an extortion plot set up by Evan Chandler, which destroyed his own family and the relationship between parents and son. It seems money was the driving force of the Chandlers, especially since they were not interested in pursuing criminal charges.
2005 – THE GAVIN ARVIZO CASE
Rolling Stone, April 7, 2005 (Inside the Strangest Trial onEarth, p. 36), summarizes the case of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson in 2005 as follows – emphasis mine:
“The prosecution’s case, seldom satisfactorily explained in the mainstream media, goes as follows. On February 6th, 2003, the Bashir documentary, in which Jackson is seen admitting that he sleeps in his bedroom with young boys, is shown on British TV. Among the children who appear in the video is his accuser in this case, a thirteen-year-old cancer survivor who had been introduced to Jackson during his chemotherapy treatments several years before.
According to the prosecution, Jackson had not molested the boy at the time the Bashir documentary aired, but he was sufficiently concerned that the boy might make such allegations that he and a band of Neverland courtiers entered into an elaborate conspiracy to “falsely imprison” the boy and his family for nearly five weeks (in luxury hotels, at Neverland ranch and other places), during which time they coerced the family into denying, on camera, that anything untoward had ever happened between Jackson and the boy.
At any rate, it was only after the filming of this so-called rebuttal video – which, incidentally, Jackson then sold to the Fox Network for $3 million – and after authorities had begun an investigation into Jackson’s relationship with the boy, that Jackson allegedly molested the child, in early March.
The prosecution’s case therefore boils down to this: In a panic over negative publicity, Jackson conspires to kidnap a boy and forces him to deny acts of molestation that in fact never happened, and then he gets over his panic just long enough to actually molest the child at the very moment when the whole world is watching.
It is a fantastic argument, a bilious exercise in circular prosecutorial logic: conspiracy to commit conspiracy, false imprisonment for the sake of it, followed by a sudden act of utter self-destructive madness. And none of it makes sense…“
No wonder the prosecution’s case doesn’t stand a chance, and no wonder Michael Jackson is acquitted on all counts in 2005. And rightly so – justice is served.
Michael Jackson’s defense team catches the Arvizos lying, contradicting themselves and each other and changing their stories in significant ways.
Moreover, the Arvizos are not only caught lying in their case against Michael Jackson, they are also caught lying in other cases. They have a history of creating extortion plots.
Again, people should make up their own minds about this, but “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck”, then it probably is a scam – once more.
2013-2019 – THE WADE ROBSON AND JAMES SAFECHUCK CASES
Readers should take a look at the following link to understand how both of these cases fall apart and why they were already twice rejected by a court of law:
Both Wade Robson and James Safechuck continue to seek huge monetary compensations, although a company like HBO recognizes them as victims – well are they?
All the facts that have come to light since the HBO-production Leaving Neverland aired, indicate that these cases too are scams.
The apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he had been in fact a persecutor while he was under the impression that he was defending (potential) victims. Some people have a similar audacity and spiritual humility regarding the Michael Jackson case and admit that they were wrong in persecuting Michael Jackson. This is what “conversion” looks like, also from a Christian point of view – becoming aware of your own complicity in violence, and turning away from that violence towards love:
I guess we all need redemption from a world that is dominated by greed and lust for power.
Let’s get back to life. Back to reality.
10 FINAL NOTE ON MICHAEL JACKSON AS A “POWERFUL PERSON”
It is weird how some people keep describing Michael Jackson as a “powerful man”. He is dead. He cannot defend himself against the accusations that are now leveled against him by people who are backed by powerful institutions like HBO and Oprah Winfrey. Many assumptions about Michael Jackson’s so-called “power” simply aren’t true.
Michael Jackson’s properties got raided several times by police forces, his computers were meticulously investigated by the FBI, he barely had any privacy, his genitals were photographed by the police, tabloids continuously sought to publish scandalous stories about him (paying huge amounts of money for whoever wanted to tell a story), and he constantly had people around who wanted to take advantage of him (as is also testified by the Schleiters in their Open Letter). In 1993, during the first of two cases leveled against him during his lifetime, Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly tried to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which were rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allowed the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lost four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceedings were completed. In other words, Michael Jackson was eager to go to trial to clear his name, but he didn’t stand a chance. That’s how “powerful” he was.
Even when Michael Jackson was acquitted on all counts in 2005 for a case that was actually too ridiculous to go to trial at all (see above why), he had to face the fact that many people still believed in his guilt. And (tabloid) media kept feeding that perception. Michael Jackson could never defend himself against the bulk of venomous tabloid vomit. Again, that’s how “powerful” he was. Some people keep thinking Michael Jackson was acquitted in the Arvizo case because of his power and money, without looking at the case itself and its ridiculousness. Leaving Neverland of course confirms that assumption (at first sight that is). And anyone who dares to consider even the possibility that Michael Jackson is innocent of the charges leveled against him, is arrogantly labeled “a crazy, irrational fan”. And yet people who are not a fan of Michael Jackson have spoken out against Leaving Neverland and have discredited the allegations by Robson and Safechuck.
If the #MeToo movement wants us to accept that emotionally manipulative and deceitful cinematic productions by powerful media, launched to the world for big money, are more important to determine a person’s guilt than the facts that are revealed through arduous investigative proceedings – selling the former as “rational” and the latter as “irrational” -, then the #MeToo movement will eventually be more about defending grifters than about defending real victims of (child) sexual abuse.
That is not a world that I want to be a part of. This world:
11 MADONNA’S TESTIMONY
P.S. OTHER CASES KILLING THE #MeToo MOVEMENT
In a reaction on Facebook to this post, Leigh Fetter commented:
“Look at the recent acquittals of Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush, actor John Jarrett, the imminent quashing of the guilt verdict against Cardinal Pell et al. not to speak of Ms Amanda Knox and Raffaello Sollecito based on extraordinarily flimsy evidence in a time of moral panic. Accusations contagiously invoke the archaic bloodlust latent in crowds, by a drumming up crimes against the most innocent ‘victims’ such as girls and children. This enables a veneer of righteous indignation and sanctimonious fury, much like the blood-libel accusations of the Middle Ages, to shield the accuser from his own participation in the diabolical genesis of a sacrificial crisis and its desired catharsis, in the condemnation and putting away of the one called ‘diabolical; a predator’. As Girard has taught us, the existence of one voice of doubt destroys the blindness – and therefore the satisfaction and effectiveness – of the sacrifice. The number and intensity of these recent accusations speaks to a profound spiritual crisis at the heart of our ‘post-Christian’ societies and, I dare say, there will be many more victims who will be condemned as ‘rapists’, ‘homophobes’, ‘paedophiles’ etc like the terms ‘Christ killers’ and ‘kidnappers of Christian children’ that gave cover for the the fundamentally arbitrary persecutions in the Middle Ages.”
Important strands of the Jewish and Christian traditions are particularly sensitive to phenomena like mob violence, victim blaming, sexism and racism. Those strands try to give “voice to the voiceless”, whether in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of a patriarchal group mentality or in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of the mass media crowd.
The Christian tradition interprets the concern for the voice of the voiceless as the work of the “Holy Spirit”, who is also called the “Defender”, “Advocate” or “Comforter” (see, for instance, John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”).
Therefore, from this perspective the Jewish and Christian traditions will be at once an advocate and a critic of the #MeToo movement, as the movement should represent the voice of the voiceless and not the voice of a blinded and blinding lynch mob.
The above article mainly focuses on the case of multiple child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson (although not exclusively) as a prime example of how the roar of the mass media crowd threatens the credibility of the #MeToo movement. That movement should be about giving “voice to the voiceless”.
Linde Van den Eede, one of my high school students for almost two years now, wrote a very interesting paper on the end of the Roman Republic from the perspective of René Girard’s “mimetic theory”. She chose it as an assignment for her English class (English, mind you, is a third language here in Belgium).
Linde is one of those people who likes to reflect on our cultural history and on the ideas of what it means to be human. Her paper is a precious little pearl, well-researched and opening up perspectives for further reading and writing. Today, Linde celebrates her 17th birthday, which means that she was only 16 when she wrote her paper. I am convinced that whoever reads her paper will be quite astonished, as I was, about the academic level of her writing.
AN AFTERTHOUGHT (A REFLECTION AFTER READING LINDE’S PAPER)
Dictatorial regimes like the creativity of artists, novelists, philosophers and scientists insofar as that creativity proves useful for the maintenance of the totalitarian system. In extreme right wing and extreme left wing regimes, art becomes propaganda, novels serve as censured forms of escapism, philosophers turn into political ideologues, and scientists become technicians who are no longer interested in knowledge of reality as a whole.
In a totalitarian system governed by money, creativity is allowed insofar as it serves the goals of capitalism, which is to yield ever more money. Art becomes propaganda at the service of “supply and demand”, only now it is called “publicity”. If there are any novels left, they are supposed to be “entertaining”, thinking is reduced to “management”, and science only serves technological innovation.
What dictatorial regimes don’t like is freedom. They don’t like the true creativity of artists, novelists, philosophers and scientists, which is the creativity “to move beyond the system”. True creativity allows us to reflect on the system that we are part of, which is also a way of distancing ourselves from that very same system. Being able to reflect on a system means that we are not totally defined by that system. This kind of freedom makes us human.
True artists and novelists imagine “new worlds” that enable us to question the world we are living in. They don’t just offer forms of escapism. True philosophers and scientists ask new questions or ask age-old questions anew, and open up unprecedented perspectives. If humanity has found ever new ways of “being in the world”, it is not because people burned books that were deemed “not useful” or “a threat to the existing system”. No, it is precisely because there were people who rescued and revisited ideas that were supposed to be burned.
We give up our own humanity if we just ask ourselves how to function in a given system. Of course that is an important question, and we are always at the same time part of the systems that we are able to question. But to safeguard our humanity we should cultivate our ability to ask what it means to be human (and asking the question is more important than answering it). This liberating ability is quite unique to us, human beings, and therefore contains our humanity.
These words are sung regularly nowadays by certain young people across Flanders, Belgium. I heard them last year during a sporting event organized by the school I’m working in. The following is an example of a sticker found at my school:
I also heard the racist chant on Congo more recently on a TV news report. Amateur footage showed how a young Belgian-Rwandese woman suffered harassment at a music festival from a group of young men. The men were singing “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” (“Cutting off hands, Congo is ours”). They of course refer to a horrible practice by colonists in former Belgian Congo: colonists sometimes cut the hands of workers who tried to escape oppressive labor conditions. In short, “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” is a very racist song, referring to barbaric aspects of western history and culture.
Apart from plain racist statements, nationalist claims are also a hype. “This is Flemish soil” are words which often come from the very same people who sometimes sing the Congo song, thereby jeopardizing the cause of those Flemish nationalists who want nothing to do with racism. At least at the already mentioned sporting event this was the case. “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” was uttered by students who write “Dit is Vlaamse grond” (“This is Flemish soil”) everywhere they can (on walls and desks, in notebooks, etcetera). It is quite ironic that people who claim to defend “the Flemish cause” associate themselves with a brutal practice of Belgium’s colonial past.
If the racist song is merely a self-proclaimed (however horribly misguided) “joke”, then the singers are really taking a basic element of a so-called politically correct framework as their moral reference point: racism should be rejected. If it is not a joke, then the singers truly reject what is often loathed as “political correctness”. In the latter case, the singers carry out Adolf Hitler’s worldview. Before going any further with this, it should be stressed that Godwin’s law is not at work here.
Claiming that “Flanders is for the Flemish” or, say, “Sweden belongs to the Swedes” on the one hand, and that “Congo belongs to the (Flemish) Europeans” on the other, is the same as claiming that some people have more rights than others. Apparently it is believed that Congo does not belong to the Congolese but to the Flemish.
To understand how those claims are connected to Hitler’s worldview it is recommended to read the work of historian Timothy Snyder (who was the first to deliver the René Girard Lecture at Stanford University, organized by Imitatio). Snyder explains Hitler’s worldview also in an interview with The Atlantic:
What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: races struggle against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try to take land.
It’s a very dark, empty universe. I mean, that’s how Hitler describes it to himself. There are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people. And so Hitler sees the only good thing as removing the Jews who pervert, as he says it, human nature and physical nature. […] Unnatur is actually a term that Hitler uses, and I think it’s a really telling term. […] He sees the Jews as being the thing which destroys the world, which infects the world. He uses the term “pestilence” in this sense—the Jews have infected the world. They’ve made the world not just impure in some kind of metaphorical sense—he really means it. And so the only way to purify the world—to make things go back to the way they’re supposed to be, to have a natural ecology, to go back to this struggle between races, which Hitler thinks is natural—the only way to do that is to physically eliminate the Jews.
I went back and reread [Hitler’s manifesto] Mein Kampf, and reread the second book, and read all the major Hitler primary sources, and I was really astonished at how clearly these ideas came out—that, in fact, Hitler’s quite explicitly an ecological thinker, that the planetary level is the most important level. This is something that he says right from the beginning of Mein Kampf, all the way through. And likewise, I was struck that Hitler explicitly said that states are temporary, state borders will be washed away in the struggle for nature. In other words, the anarchy that he creates was actually there in the theory from the beginning. Hitler says from the very beginning, what we have to do is destroy the Jews; strip away the artificial political creations that the Jews are responsible for; and let nature just take its course. And what he means by nature’s course is [that] the stronger races destroy the weaker races.
In short, the “natural order”, according to Hitler, is the struggle between races, whereby the stronger “races” take land from the weaker. And so it happens that people to this day can claim that “Congo belongs to the Flemish” (which means that the Congolese are seen as belonging to a “weaker race”). Also according to Hitler, the so-called “natural order” is “morally preferable”. The Jews, in Hitler’s view, challenge the idea of a direct causality between a so-called “natural physical order of things” and “what is morally preferable”. I think Hitler is quite right about the latter case.
The Jews eventually, in the course of their history, question any determination of human beings by the physical forces that govern our universe. In ancient “pagan” (in this context “non-Jewish”) cultures these forces were deified and worshipped as “gods” (or “the divine” – “the sacred”). They were the authors of human life, whose laws prescribed the ultimate meaning and destiny of that life. Hitler re-interprets those forces in a somewhat pseudo-Darwinian sense, likewise claiming that the goal of human life is necessarily determined by the “laws of nature” as he defines them (see above). By contrast, the God of Israel ultimately calls human beings to become the authors of their own life and to understand themselves as relatively independent of “the given order of things”. To “the given order of things” belong our spontaneous inclinations, which also do not automatically determine our behavior (and the very fact that we can choose to follow our inclinations or not proves that we are relatively free and not determined by them). Even allegiance to a family, to a “father” and a “mother” becomes something that is notnaturally, automatically given in a Jewish sense: it becomes a revealed commandment in the Ten Commandments. This might encourage us to focus our attention on those people who truly are father and mother figures in our lives, those who are not necessarily our biological father or mother (see The Judgment of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28). Jesus maybe goes even further, as he invites us to question our attachment to our own family and culture (see previous post: Jesus Christ, Narcissist?) in order to love our neighbor and “love our enemy”. In any case, to many people, like victims of incest, it is probably a relief that abusive family members or oppressive cultural customs do not determine their identity.
What is ultimately at stake in the ideological battle between Judaism and, for lack of a better word, (neo)paganism is a question about what it means to be a cultural animal.Some people would say that the identity of every human being is determined by a particular culture and its history. In this case, any attempt to overcome our paradoxical so-called natural attachment to “our own cultural in-group” is perceived as a “perversion of nature” that is bound to tragically fail. From this perspective we are born into a culture whose given traditions, customs, norms and values we should deeply respect. It is also believed that history shows whose culture is “superior” to other cultures. Again paradoxically, it seems like an endless and necessary law that we are committed to deify our history and cultural heritage.
Contrary to the traditional pagan notions of identity, the Judeo-Christian influence on history instills us with the idea that we are also freeindividuals. In other words, our identity is not determined by any particular cultural group, history, sexual orientation or even gender we’re born into. As individuals we do not necessarily belong to any particular group except, paradoxically, to humanity. Thus Judaism indeed opens up the possibility to perceive the other as “other human being” (as Hitler would have it and detests it, see above), irreducible to the particular characteristics of any “group”.
To be a cultural animal from a (neo)pagan viewpoint means that a human being is born into a given culturethat he naturally tries to maintain and develop.
[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by other cultures. This usually results in the exclusion or destruction of other cultures, understood as a “natural evolution” in the cyclical order of things. There is no goal in this context but the goal to “preserve” and “obey” the endless laws governing human history.]
To be a cultural animal from a Jewish or Judeo-Christian viewpoint means that a human being is born with natural gifts to adapt to and create any culture.
[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by the physical order of things, and to consider the possibility of the beyond, the revolutionary and truly new “meta-physical”; it is a consideration of a non-cyclical, linear future.]
It is clear that Judaism warns against the deification of any particular culture or history. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one’s culture is “superior” leads to the oppression of “others” who are perceived as “less human”, and Judaism battles this inhumane outcome. In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to many far right identity politics. Ecclesiastes very nicely points to the futility of any human culture – generations and kings come and go (Ecclesiastes 1:11 & 4:14-16):
No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
On the other hand, Judaism also warns against the deification of individuality and human freedom. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one is “enlightened” and free from particular cultural traditions and historical influences unlike “backward others” leads to stores of rage and resentment from those others (who are merely “tolerated” but not really engaged in dialogue). In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to far left-wing and all too liberal identity politics, which feed the resentment right-wing identity politics thrive upon.
Jesus warns his fellow Jews against the illusion that they are not dependent on historical influences like their ancestors. To think that we would not have made the mistakes our ancestors made in their time, is to deny the inescapable historicity of our humanity, and again leads to a rejection of the other as “other human being”. Again we then show the tendency to reduce others to the particular characteristics of a “group” different from “us”. In the words of Jesus (Matthew 23:29-32):
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”
In short, Judeo-Christian tradition acknowledges that there are physical forces and cultural laws which precede our existence, but they are merely starting points. They do not determine the goals and destiny of our lives. We are called to live an existence as individuals who ultimately belong to no particular group but humanity. Thus we are called “to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Therein lies the essence of “human nature” in a Judeo-Christian sense.
P.S. 1 It remains to be seen if a young Flemish nationalist movement like Schild & Vriendenis also a racist movement. Dries Van Langenhove, leader of the movement, called the above mentioned racist Congo song “an edgy student song, sung at nearly every party”. I hope he doesn’t mean that it should therefore be accepted. The supposed racism of “other cultures” doesn’t in any way justify racism in one’s own quarters (although it might make it comprehensible). To be proud of your own culture means that you don’t imitate morally questionable practices of other cultures, and that you don’t take those practices as a reference point to justify your own practices. In the case of responding to the racism of others, we are responsible for our own behavior, and we shouldn’t blame others for the way we act – that would be hiding behind a scapegoat mechanism.
Anyway, here is an interview with Dries Van Langenhove by Lana Lokteff of Red Ice. It reveals some of the suppositions of Schild & Vrienden concerning “identity formation” and some of their views on what it means to be part of a cultural realm:
P.S. 2 For more on the word culture and its etymology click here for slides on Australian pop culture (assembled by Angela Ballas – Yaryalitsa). Or watch the powerpoint:
Sherin Khankan (°1974), Denmark’s first female imam and one of the leaders of the Mariam Mosque in Copenhagen, was interviewed for Belgian television (May 29th, 2017).
The full interview can be watched here – definitely a MUST SEE:
Here are some transcripted excerpts from the interview:
Interviewer Bart Schols: Did you get some bad reactions on what you’re doing? Because every religion has a very traditional side sometimes, probably also in Denmark?
Sherin Khankan: Actually, I never focus on the bad reactions. I always focus on the support, and we have a lot of support from all over the world. Actually, recently we had a visitor, from one of the world’s largest mosques, the world’s third largest mosque – it’s the Grand Mosque in Indonesia –, and the grand imam he came and he blessed our mosque, and he prayed in our mosque, and he made a written document, saying thatfemale imams are of course a possibility, and it’s a part of our Islamic tradition and theology… So, but of course, when you create change… When you change the structure, when you change the fundamentals, when you challenge the patriarchal structure, you challenge the power balance. And when you do that, people will get upset, it’s natural.
So we are prepared for opposition, but actually the worst opposition that we met so far was not from Muslims. The reactions from Muslims were quite moderate, but from the right wing parties, Islamophobes, Nazi-parties… we had very bad reactions.
Interviewer: More than from the inside?
Sherin Khankan: Yeah, I think it’s because… to Islamophobes progressive Muslims are a greater threat than Islamists are, because we are actually able to change the narrative on Islam in Europe.
Interviewer: Okay. You are traveling around the world with a message, if I may call it like that. What is the fight that you are fighting?
Sherin Khankan: First of all we want to give women the chance to disseminate the Islamic message. We want to create a place where women are equal to men. We want to challenge the patriarchal structure. We want to challenge the growing Islamophobia, and we wish to unite or unify all the great forces throughout the world who are fighting for women’s rights.
Interviewer: That’s in general, but if you, like in different countries, because you travel around the world, around Europe… you have different issues. There’s the headscarf, that’s a discussion about everywhere, also here in Belgium. What is your position on that?
Sherin Khankan: I do believe that, it’s stated very clearly in the Declaration of Human Rights, that any person has the right to practice his or her religion in the public sphere and in the private sphere. So if a person chooses to wear the headscarf of her own free will, it’s her choice and nobody should be able to touch that woman.
Interviewer: Also a police officer, for example?
Sherin Khankan: Of course, why not? A police officer, a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, anyone, because what’s important is not what you wear on your head. It’s what you have inside your head. So even if you ban the scarf, people will still have the same opinions inside.So it’s not a matter of the scarf, it’s a matter of realizing that we are living in a world and we have to accept pluralism as a factor, as a fundament for our societies. If not we are becoming oppressive. So I’m fighting for any woman’s right to wear the hijab and not to wear the hijab…
From a rational point of view, you would expect that Western extreme right-wing parties are delighted with the kind of Islam Sherin Khankan is advocating. After all, their message to people from other cultures has always been: “Adapt or go back to your country!” Exactly what culture people should adapt to or how that culture is defined is never quite clear, but anyways: here you have a kind of Islam that is perfectly compatible with the principles of a Western political, secularized culture, respecting the separation of Church and State. This separation goes both ways, of course. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it very clear:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Sherin Khankan defends an Islam that does not interfere with the fundamental rights in a modern, Western democracy, so what are some extreme right-wing parties making such a fuss about? Aren’t they defending their “own” Western culture and values? Apparently, we shouldn’t expect too much rationality from them. What happens is quite simple: extreme right-wing parties partly need an “enemy monster” to justify and manage their own existence. If the so-called monster that is Islam turns out not to be such a monster after all, their reason for existence is threatened. That’s why extreme right-wing parties always make reasonable Muslim voices “the exception”. Sometimes they also argue that those reasonable Muslim voices are to blame for the infiltration of Islamist extremists in Western society, as if they function as “hosts” for extremist “parasites”.
What extreme right-wing parties rarely notice, of course, is the result of research done by security services all over the world: when people feel very oppressed or frustrated, they can radicalize very quickly one way or the other (extreme right-wing parties, as advocates of the reasoning that “our own culture is under threat”, are also an example). So to suppress a religion like Islam and Muslims is a very bad idea. The British Security Service MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) claims there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization. Indeed, as the research by MI5 reveals, the vast majority of extremists participating in terrorist attacks in the UK, are British nationals. They are not illegal immigrants and, far from having received a religious upbringing, most are religious novices.
Ah, well… Are we strong enough to create identities beyond the need for an enemy monster? What if “the Wicked Witch of the West” isn’t wicked after all? I can’t help but mention in this context a great book that deals with the recurring dynamic of the need for a monstrous enemy: The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things by Suzanne Ross. It is about the musical Wicked, the subversive and challenging prequel to the well-known story of The Wizard of Oz. Indeed, today we could ask the question: “What if the Wicked Witch of Islam isn’t wicked after all?” Maybe we remain anti-rational weaklings who need witches… Or maybe there’s hope, if we just listen to women like Sherin Khankan.
This is the story of Jesus, the reporter. He did a series of interviews with representatives of different extremist factions in this world. This post contains fragments of his conversations, references to actual events and commentaries by an expert. It also reveals what eventually happened to this alleged devil’s advocate.
From an interview with Richie, representative of the Right to Eliminate Disorder (RED) party.
Jesus: What is your ultimate political goal?
Richie: We want to protect our western system of law and order by eliminating the main source of violence in this world, which is Islam.
Jesus: Don’t you think that Muslims might feel discriminated against if you try to ban their religion from your society? The majority of Muslims is not causing any problems. More of them might when they feel attacked.
Richie: Every Muslim is a potential terrorist because of the true, decadent, barbaric and violent nature of Islamic ideology. Only a tiny minority of so-called Muslims is able to live among us in a lasting peaceful fashion because they’re actually no real Muslims. We’re defending our western culture.
Jesus: One of the main achievements of your culture is the freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State. Aren’t you destroying that culture, instead of defending it, by prohibiting Islam?
Richie: No. You have to understand that Muslims want to impose their way of life on the rest of the world. They have no respect for the separation of Church and State. Just look at Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. So, instead of destroying our culture with its separation of Church and State and freedom of religion, we would defend it by politically and legally prohibiting the religion of Islam.
Jesus: Aren’t you imposing your way of life then? In fact, aren’t you imitating countries like Saudi Arabia by imposing your ideological preferences?
Richie: We’re not imposing any ideological preference. We’re protecting a true, neutral perspective.
Jesus: By prohibiting Islam, based on your interpretation of that religion?
Richie: Our interpretation corresponds with the interpretation of organizations like ISIL.
Jesus: And that’s a neutral interpretation?
Richie: Well, yes!
Jesus: They are in favor of a particular ideological Islamic system, while you are against that system, but you are both convinced of the same system representing the true nature of Islam? There’s no discussion about that?
Richie: No discussion. Accept the truth: they want to eradicate us! Ask me something else!
Jesus: Are you willing to sacrifice yourself to protect your cultural identity?
Richie: Yes. I would consider it an honor.
Jesus: Am I getting this right? You are prepared to sacrifice yourself because you don’t want to become the victim of an organization like ISIL; becoming its victim would be a disgrace, becoming a sacrifice by fighting it would be an honor? You are prepared to die so you won’t get killed? It seems you’re accomplishing exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead of saving your life, you’re losing it.
Richie: Listen, for once and for all, the Muslims are attacking us. We have the right to defend ourselves. Our violence is justified, theirs is not justified. I’m willing to die in the name of righteousness to establish an order and a peace where the terrorists are eliminated.
Jesus: If I may refer to Star Wars, you are the Jedi and they are the Sith?
Jesus: But isn’t that a matter of perspective? In the end, you’re both killers, establishing a peace at the expense of sacrifices?
Jesus: Maybe the question is not whether you are in favor of or against a particular system. Maybe the question is whether the system can be used or transformed in such a way that it enables you to love your enemy? After all, our enemies remain fellow human beings. If we can love them, then they can love us too. If we can transform our system, then they can do the same thing.
My advice would be: don’t imitate the hatred and the violence of certain people by taking revenge on those you associate with them (but who are actually innocent). In other words, don’t look for scapegoats, because it will only plant seeds for new violence. The threat you feared but wasn’t there, will become real, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Richie: Shut up with your nonsense! The threat is real and has always been real. What did you say your name was again?
Richie: I’ll remember you.
From an interview with Idris, representative of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) party.
Jesus: What is your ultimate political goal?
Idris: We want to protect our Islamic system of law and order by eliminating the main source of violence in this world, which is western culture.
Jesus: Don’t you think that westerners might feel discriminated against if you try to ban their culture from your society? The majority of westerners is not causing any problems. More of them might when they feel attacked.
Idris: Every westerner is a potential terrorist because of the true, decadent, barbaric and violent nature of western culture. Only a tiny minority of so-called westerners is able to live among us in a lasting peaceful fashion because they’re actually no real westerners. They converted to Islam. We’re defending our Islamic culture.
Jesus: One of the core convictions of your culture is the conviction that there should be no compulsion in religion. Aren’t you destroying that culture, instead of defending it, by prohibiting western culture?
Idris: No. You have to understand that westerners want to impose their way of life on the rest of the world. They have no respect for the conviction that there should be no compulsion in religion, one way or the other. Just look at western countries trying to ban Muslims. It’s just one of the measures suppressing Muslims. Muslims who live in western countries are constantly discriminated against. However, no one can prevent me from being a Muslim, and I will avert any culture that tries to suppress Islam.
FACT, NOT FICTION: President Trump signed an executive order on January 27 that banned entry into the US by anyone from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, and banned nearly all refugees for 120 days.
Jesus: But aren’t you imitating potential Muslim bans by averting western culture all together? Aren’t you imposing your ideological preferences just the same?
Idris: We’re not imposing any ideological preference. We’re protecting a true, divine perspective.
Jesus: By advocating Islam, based on your interpretation of that religion?
Idris: Our interpretation corresponds with the interpretation of the wicked who try to ban us.
Jesus: And that’s a true interpretation?
Idris: Well, yes!
Jesus: They are against a particular ideological Islamic system, while you are in favor of that system, but you are both convinced of the same system representing the true nature of Islam? There’s no discussion about that?
Idris: No discussion. They refuse to accept the divine truth and want to eradicate us. Ask me something else!
Jesus: Are you willing to sacrifice yourself to protect your cultural identity?
Idris: Yes. I would consider it an honor.
Jesus: Am I getting this right? You are prepared to sacrifice yourself because you don’t want to become the victim of an organization like RED; becoming its victim would be a disgrace, becoming a sacrifice by fighting it would be an honor? You are prepared to die so you won’t get killed? It seems you’re accomplishing exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead of saving your life, you’re losing it.
Idris: Listen, for once and for all, the westerners are attacking us. We have the right to defend ourselves. Our violence is justified, theirs is not justified. I’m willing to die in the name of righteousness to establish an order and a peace where the terrorists are eliminated.
Jesus: If I may refer to Star Wars, you are the Jedi and they are the Sith?
Jesus: But isn’t that a matter of perspective? In the end, you’re both killers, establishing a peace at the expense of sacrifices?
Idris: This is the way of the world. There’s a constant battle of good versus evil.
Jesus: But how good is ‘good’ when it establishes a system in the same way as the so-called ‘evil’ side would do it?
Idris: What do you propose then?
Jesus: Maybe the question is not whether you are in favor of or against a particular system. Maybe the question is whether the system can be used or transformed in such a way that it enables you to love your enemy? After all, our enemies remain fellow human beings. If we can love them, then they can love us too. If we can transform our system, then they can do the same thing.
My advice would be: don’t imitate the hatred and the violence of certain people by taking revenge on those you associate with them (but who are actually innocent). In other words, don’t look for scapegoats, because it will only plant seeds for new violence. The threat you feared but wasn’t there, will become real, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Idris: Shut up with your nonsense! The threat is real and has always been real. What did you say your name was again?
Idris: I’ll remember you.
Comments by Parry, the Paranoiac.
I’m an expert in politics. It is crystal clear that RED and ISIL made a pact. After all, they need each other to exist.
On the one hand, a violent act by RED can be presented by ISIL as proof of the fact that western culture is the enemy of Islam, and then ISIL can sell itself as a Messiah that will liberate the Muslim world of all evil.
On the other hand, a violent act by ISIL can be presented by RED as proof of the fact that Islam is the enemy of western culture, and then RED can sell itself as a Messiah that will liberate the western world of all evil.
Of course, in both cases, the evil cannot really disappear for these so-called Messiahs can only justify their existence and hold on to their power because of the problem they’re supposedly fighting against. In other words, they are false Messiahs.
Anyway, Satan cannot cast out Satan.
FACT, NOT FICTION: Syrian dictator Assad released Jihadist extremists to tinge the rebellion against his regime with extremism. Thus he made it harder for foreign forces to back the rebels, at the same time presenting himself as a ‘savior’.
From an interview with Seth, representative of the Secularists of Society (SOS) party, and some excerpts from comments by Robbie, yet another member of the Right to Eliminate Disorder (RED) party.
Jesus: You claim to have a solution for the problem of the so-called ‘culture war’ between parties like RED and ISIL. Could you present your main ideas?
Seth: I’d be happy to. The core of the problem is the very concept of a cultural identity based on all kinds of ancient national traditions or religious ideas. My organization is convinced that the economy, more specifically a global system of economic liberalism, serves as the best basis for developing whatever identity. Instead of one culture violently competing with another because they want to occupy the same position (and thus cannot accept each other’s differences), the economic system will guarantee that differences are established after an honest competition for similar positions (and thus must be accepted).
Peace would be established if everyone agreed upon the same economic system, and if everyone was granted the same chances within that system. If this were the case, your social identity and position would be based on your own merits, and no one would be allowed to question the identity and position of another. Cultural and religious items would become private items, available at and provided by the market as well, for each individual. The problems from the past, where social identities and positions were often established because of cultural and religious traditions, would evaporate. In any case, identities based on nationalism or religion (or both) need to disappear in favor of identities based on a global meritocratic system.
Jesus: But then again a type of rivalry will arise. Not everyone will accept a definition of his or her identity by the economic system. Also this system exists at the expense of sacrificing other systems.Moreover, what will happen if people don’t just accept their position and get frustrated because they belong to the so-called ‘losers’ of society? Maybe they will create a counter-culture like ISIL where they feel like ‘winners’, and, being guided by resentment, thus condemn the society they previously desired to be a significant part of. And then we’re back from where we started.
I totally disagree with the policy of Seth and SOS. I’m a nationalist, and I have the right to protect my national cultural identity. Moreover, I’m also religious (contrary to Richie, our representative). I just can’t stand God’s laws being threatened by a decadent consumer culture. Mark my words, it won’t be long until the wrath of God descends upon us.
From an interview with Lizzy, representative of the Being Left Unjustly Exposed (BLUE) party, and some excerpts from comments by Ibrahim, yet another member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) party.
Jesus: You criticize the solutions to the current crisis in the world proposed by SOS. Do you have a better one?
Lizzy: Well, yes. The problem is that meritocracy isn’t functioning like it should. People, especially young people, get frustrated because some people get way more than they deserve. If we redistribute wealth, give everyone the same basic income, we can stop organizations like ISIL from recruiting depressed and frustrated young people. The need for religion will automatically disappear, especially if we don’t talk about it anymore in schools and in education.
FACT, NOT FICTION: Communist regimes of the past already tried to eradicate religion, with due consequences for religious people (who experienced discrimination). For instance in the Soviet Union.
Jesus: Is that a good idea, making religion a taboo? It will continue to flourish on the internet, and young people who don’t know anything about it might fall victim to malicious minds who use religion for evil purposes.
Lizzy: We will do everything to eradicate religion, smoothly. After all, we don’t need it, do we?
Jesus: Once again, also this system exists at the expense of sacrifices. Is our identity as a human being only defined by what we need (or learned to need)? That’s a poor way of approaching others. As if others are only worth something because I would need them.
Lizzy: What did you say your name was again?
Lizzy: I’ll remember you.
Comments by Ibrahim, member of ISIL.
At first I thought BLUE was protecting Muslim interests. It provided extra educational programs for free, which I thought was a good thing. Coming from a poor family, I didn’t have the means to catch up with my friends in high school. We were all just playing around, but the wealthy parents of my friends could pay for tutors and extra classes when they were not studying well. I was left behind. My friends were characterized as ‘adventurous youth’, while I was characterized as a ‘dipshit’ for committing the same misdemeanors. If BLUE thinks that I would give up on my religion to lead the same decadent life as my former friends, then it is wrong.
Epilogue by Parry, the Paranoiac.
This is how the story of Jesus and his interviews ends.
A small part of religious RED members forged an alliance with a small part of ISIL members, fighting the secularism of both SOS and BLUE. As the rivalry between RED and ISIL for the same position in society thereby somewhat temporarily ended because they found a common enemy, also the rivalry between SOS and BLUE to gain control over society temporarily ended because of their common religious enemy.
FACT, NOT FICTION: Two days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two evangelicals, shared their “theological” views on the terrorist violence (transcript from the 700 club, a well-known evangelical television program in the States – September 13, 2001). Especially these comments are telling: JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well yes.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur…
As time went by, however, the old animosities became apparent again, until… the Evil Mastermind appeared. He was able to sense that Jesus had irritated all parties. Jesus had been everybody’s obstacle. The Evil Mastermind could turn him into the enemy of all, uniting the whole world against Jesus. “Let’s kill Jesus!” became his war cry. Thus the Evil Mastermind created peace, once again, at the expense of a sacrifice.
The story of Jesus could have ended here, were it not that within each faction against him, there were people who realized that Jesus had done nothing wrong. They felt guilty because they hadn’t done anything to protect him, although Jesus himself had always pointed out the danger of eliminating innocent people (scapegoats) to establish peace. Some of them claimed that they had experienced the presence of Jesus beyond his death, meaning that they experienced a second chance to protect his life, the life of the scapegoats. They started questioning the unity against the common enemy of their respective factions. They created non-violent enmity in their own household by loving their external enemy, thus opening up the possibility of a peace that is not established at the expense of sacrifice – a peace of a different world.
The door bell rings. I open the door. In front of me are two of Jehovah’s witnesses. I invite them in. It’s a force of habit, enhanced by the fact that I’m a teacher and student of religion. I always jump at the opportunity to ask them a few questions.
Actually, I’m really curious about their views on the evolution vs creationism debate. They assure me that Jehovah’s witnesses don’t accept creationism because some statements of creationism reject credible scientific evidence. No kidding. Thus I assume that Jehovah’s witnesses accept the theory of evolution. Which, I learn, they don’t either.
As the conversation continues, I come to the conclusion that Jehovah’s witnesses refuse to be labeled as creationists because it puts them in the same basket with Christian fundamentalist Evangelicals. From an outsider’s perspective, Jehovah’s witnesses and Evangelicals have a lot in common. However, as is often the case, it’s easier to admire those who do not belong to your own terrain than those who are close to you. It’s – as René Girard would have it – a mimetic law, which Plato already refers to in his dialogue Lysis (215d) when Socrates says:
By a universal and infallible law the nearer any two things resemble each other, the fuller do they become of envy, strife and hatred…
Competition and rivalry indeed often increase because of similarities. Two tennis players with similar talents and competences will make for a good game. Another example is the feud between biker gangs Hell’s Angels and Outlaws, or the rivalry that existed at first between ISIL and Al-Qaeda. And most of the time, foreigners and their customs don’t bother us until, of course, they become refugees who seem to invade “our country” and might take “our jobs”.
The desire to differentiate yourself from an adversary increases as differences are actually disappearing. The tragic and ironic thing is, the more you then try differentiate yourself from your opponent, the more you become (like) your opponent. For instance, after the Second World War many Germans and German speaking citizens in Europe were brutally raped, tortured and murdered in a horrific frenzy of vengeful violence. This genocide truly became a mimesis of the holocaust, although the vast majority of perpetrators never had to stand trial for what they did. History is written by the victors, and they create the stories (which is, in light of Girard’s mimetic theory, the function of classical mythology) to cover up violence or to decide whose violence is justified and whose is not.
Back to my visitors, the Jehovah’s witnesses. Like their ideological kinsfolk and rivals, the Evangelicals, they reject the theory of evolution. They claim that the Evangelicals’ representation of God as Creator is not scientific enough, meaning that, in their view, it is just partly in accordance with the teachings of the Bible.
As strange as this may sound, both the religious movement of Jehovah’s witnesses and of Evangelicals are heir to modernity. They are not harking back to the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, Christian humanists and reformers started protesting some of the (medieval, premodern) Catholic Church’s teachings (hence the name Protestantism). The protests eventually led to the second major Schism in the history of Christianity, the first being the Great Schism of 1054 (the separation of Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic churches).
Protestants are convinced that individuals can make up their own mind on what the Bible teaches. Therefore protestants attach great importance to the availability of the Bible in your mother tongue. According to them, you shouldn’t accept any dogma on the basis of clerical authority or Church tradition, which is a modern idea indeed. They are convinced that the Holy Spirit guides every reader to reach a correct interpretation of the Bible. The idea that every human being principally has access to some kind of transcendent, universalrationality as a criterion to determine what’s true, independent of the truth claims made by so-called authorities and historically, culturally situated traditions is, again, a focus of modernity.
However, Protestantism not only meant a separation of new churches from the Catholic Church, it also almost immediately became internally divided. Apparently, what the Holy Spirit teaches is not so easily agreed upon. Hence, today, there are a myriad Protestant denominations. Moreover, the history of Reformation and Counter-Reformation eventually brought an end to the central position of (the Christian) religion in Western Europe.
For centuries, the Christian religion had been a unifying, stabilizing factor in Europe’s society, important for the establishment of peace between people with different cultural backgrounds. The Christianization of pagan habits brought the nations of Western Europe under one and the same religious umbrella.
The internal peace and identity of a Christian Europe was enhanced by military expeditions against an external Islamic enemy during the Crusades. In contrast, the violence and the wars in Europe between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation meant that religion was no longer experienced as a factor for peace. Thus it comes as no surprise that, in the 18th century – the Age of Enlightenment – many philosophers stressed the priority of the so-called transcendent, universally valid (and thus divine) Reason to determine truth, values and moral behavior.
In premodern thinking, reason and science had been servants of the so-called revealed truths in Christian religion. The clerical authorities, their interpretation of the Bible and the traditions of the Church set the agenda for reason and science. Someone like Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) turns the tables. Sapere aude, he writes, which is Latin and translates to Dare to be wise or Dare to think. By that he means an individual should think independently of any religious dogma (whether it comes from scripture, tradition or authority). Religious dogma should stand the test of Reason, and not the other way around.
The Enlightenment thinkers are convinced that every human being is principally capable of reaching the universal (and therefore, for many of them, divine) truth by developing his or her reason. According to Kant, you shouldn’t accept any truth claim on the basis of authority and tradition, nor on the basis of an uncritical “own opinion”, but on the basis of the so-called transcendent Reason. Eventually, the modern secular State became the institution that at first seemed to provide its citizens the means to discover the so-called universal truth. Sadly, however, some of the modern states became totalitarian, claiming to own truth and morality, and violently suppressing any type of “otherness” that was considered a potential threat to the government’s policy. Hitler and Stalin were two leaders of infamous totalitarian states in their respective countries.
In short, after the historical period of the Church defining Reason and exercising the power to distinguish so-called justified (“moral”) from unjustified (“immoral”) Violence, Europe gradually accepted the secular State defining Reason and exercising the power to distinguish so-called justified (“moral”) from unjustified (“immoral”) Violence. One of the main features of modernity indeed is the State’s monopoly on the use of violence. Both the Church and the State were experienced as totalitarian institutions at certain points in their history. The use of their force was not always experienced as something that provided safety, but as a source of terror.
In 1948 the world received The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is in fact a declaration on individual rights. After the traumas of violence motivated by religious ideologies in the 16th and 17th centuries and of violence motivated by secular ideologies in the 20th century, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be read as an attempt to protect the individual from too much influence by the Church (hence “freedom of speech”) or the State (hence “freedom of religion”). The secular violence in the 20th century also meant that we do not automatically believe anymore in reason and science as factors for the progress of humanity. Scientific progress and technological developments also made possible weapons of mass destruction, which caused violence at an unprecedented scale during the two world wars. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution also started an era of increasing social and environmental issues.
Anyway, a totalitarianism of the Church was replaced by a totalitarianism of the State, and is now replaced by a totalitarianism of the Individual. There used to be a time when educated citizens referred to the Church’s teachings as a criterion for their personal opinions and way of life, followed by a time when they referred to the State’s program as a criterion for their personal opinions and way of life. Today, in our postmodern world, individuals refer to themselves as the ultimate measure of all things, very often unaware of the influences shaping their perspective (that’s why reflection, philosophy – the art of asking questions, also about yourself – is so important to gain some freedom!).
Is it really surprising that someone like Donald Trump became the president of the most powerful nation in the world? We are indeed living in a world where there seems to be no truth more important than one’s own opinion, and everyone, including Trump, produces his own narcissistic self-validating bubble by ignoring certain facts and advocating others. It seems the most powerful individuals have the means to impose their bubble on others. When research on climate change is not favorable for his policy, president Donald Trump simply bans Environmental Protection Agency staff from talking to the press (as this happened on January 24, 2017).
I think about my visitors of the Jehovah’s witnesses again. They also had a “Trump Reflex”. When I confronted them with all the data, all the scientific research and all the logic supporting the theory of evolution, they simply replied: “It is just a theory.” In other words, confronted with reason and science questioning their own opinions, they reduced that reason and science to something like “mere opinion”. And then you get conversations like this one (from The Big Bang Theory, season 3, episode 1, The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation):
This dynamic, the Trump Reflex, is visible in all quarters, not only in religious circles. Anti-theists, for instance, when confronted with the fact that a modern, fundamentalist reading of the Bible is not the most plausible one from a scientific point of view (including historical and literary critical research), will also often speak of “just a theory” to uphold their views on the “stupidity” and “irrationality” of biblical narratives.
Belgian Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître, the famous physicist and founder of the “Big Bang” hypothesis, is a good example of someone who clearly distinguishes the questions of modern natural science from the questions the Bible is concerned with. In doing so, he criticizes both creationists and anti-theistic atheists regarding, for instance, their reading of the creation myths in the biblical book of Genesis. Both groups approach these texts with the same expectations, only to come to different conclusions. Creationists believe that the Bible and science tell the same story on the origin of the universe and of life, while anti-theists are convinced that, although the Bible tries to answer the same questions as science according to them, science actually contradicts the Genesis stories. Lemaître, on the other hand, sees no agreement nor disagreement between the Bible and modern science, simply because they are concerned with different questions. Some quotes from Lemaître, taken from an article by Joseph R. Laracy (click to read) clarify his position on the relationship between modern science and the Bible:
Should a priest reject relativity because it contains no authoritative exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity? Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes… The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses… As a matter of fact neither Saint Paul nor Moses had the slightest idea of relativity.
The Christian researcher has to master and apply with sagacity the technique appropriate to his problem. His investigative means are the same as those of his non-believer colleague… In a sense, the researcher makes an abstraction of his faith in his researches. He does this not because his faith could involve him in difficulties, but because it has directly nothing in common with his scientific activity. After all, a Christian does not act differently from any non-believer as far as walking, or running, or swimming is concerned.
The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less – some more than others – on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors in historic and scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if the errors related to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them… The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects, is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all.
As for the so-called mimetic theory on the origin and further development of culture, some people almost immediately, without really knowing what they are talking about, discard it as “just a theory” also. Even when solid scientific research that is in no way informed by this particular theory comes to very similar, if not the same conclusions (click here for more)!
Anyway, Donald Trump is each and every one of us when we refuse to question our so-called “own” opinions by scientifically obtained facts and reasonable, scientifically supported theories. Of course, no one owns the complete, total truth, but some theories will be more plausible than others.
The day we started believing that our entitlement to own opinion was more important than a quest for truth and for understanding reality was the day we paved the way for the Donald.
Op 7 september 2005, beïnvloed door het werk van politicoloog Benjamin Barber en socioloog Manuel Castells, schreef ik onder andere het volgende voor een artikel in Tertio. Blijkbaar is er sindsdien niet zoveel veranderd in de wereld. Enkele evoluties hebben zich gewoon doorgezet (ik geef een aantal voorbeelden tussen haakjes):
In Europa, maar ook daarbuiten, is aan de ene kant een soms merkwaardige alliantie ontstaan tussen linkse krachten en moslims [ook nu nog, bijvoorbeeld: moslim Dyab Abou Jahjah in De Afspraak op één, 22 november 2016, die zijn sympathie uitspreekt voor sp.a, groen en PVDA] die de islamitische zaak bepleiten tegenover de rechtse politiek van een George W. Bush – vertegenwoordiger van een soort ‘christelijk patriottisme’ –, en aan de andere kant een even opportunistisch verbond tussen joodse en christelijke fundamentalisten met extreemrechtse tendensen [ook nu nog, bijvoorbeeld: de – door sommigen genoemde – ‘christelijke kruisvaarder’ van het kabinet van Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, die goed bevriend was met wijlen Andrew Breitbart, een overtuigde jood; beiden zijn bekend van het rechtse Breitbart News Network].Beide partijen gaan elkaar te lijf met – alweer, hoe kan het ook anders – het recht op vrije meningsuiting. Dat conflict dreigt ons af te leiden van het echte probleem, namelijk dat zowel linkse als rechtse Europese politici en mediafiguren zich almaar meer uitspreken tegen een of andere vorm van geloof en godsdienst [ook nu nog, bijvoorbeeld: Filip Dewinter die de koran een ‘licence to kill’ noemt op 22 januari 2015, in het Belgische federale parlement; Joël De Ceulaer die op 13 januari 2015 via de website van Knack oproept om het godsdienstonderwijs af te schaffen na de aanslagen op Charlie Hebdo – zie ook Maarten Boudry in dit straatje, die ‘het politiek niet correcte denken over islam niet gemonopoliseerd wil zien door extreemrechts’; zie in dit verband: The Fascism of Anti-religious Utopians].
We mogen niet vergeten dat fundamentalistische christenen en moslims bondgenoten zijn in zoverre ze beiden strijden tegen een in hun ogen decadente westerse consumptiemaatschappij die geen voordeel haalt uit duurzame principes en levensprojecten, en er daarom ook weinig of geen ruimte aan biedt.
Kortom, de markteconomische ontwrichting van het sociale weefsel leidt, globaal, tot psychosociale problemen van autoagressieve aard (toename van het aantal depressies, zelfmoorden, zelfdestructieve verslavingen en eetstoornissen), alsook tot psychosociale problemen van heteroagressieve aard (extremistische, vaak gewelddadige en terroristische ‘tegenculturen’ – van zowel religieuze als seculiere aard – die hun leden een duidelijke identiteit verschaffen).
Polariserende identiteitsconstructies in onze samenleving, à la Trump, zullen niet gauw verdwijnen zolang de mainstream media weinig ruimte bieden aan diversiteit. Wie, bijvoorbeeld, als gelovige, maar ook als ongelovige, argumenteert tégen (de propaganda van) het mainstream idee over geloof en godsdienst, wordt vaak weggezet als ‘een uitzondering’. Als gelovige krijg je dan meestal te horen dat de eigen, individuele geloofsopvatting niet van tel is omdat ze niet zou overeenstemmen met wat en hoe ‘de meeste gelovigen’ geloven. Dat is alweer een standaardreactie die nauwelijks in vraag wordt gesteld.
Wat een Etienne Vermeersch als bevooroordeelde anti-theïst over godsdienst te vertellen heeft, krijgt in de mainstream meer ruimte dan wat een (eveneens bevooroordeelde) gelovige als Rik Torfs daarover kwijt kan. Het geloof van Torfs zou dan ‘te intellectueel, te gesofisticeerd en te specifiek’ zijn om er veel aandacht aan te besteden in de publieke sfeer. Verlichte geesten houden bij hun beoordeling van een bepaald gegeven echter geen rekening met wat een zogezegde meerderheid daarover te vertellen heeft. Verlichte geesten zullen nagaan of de rationele en wetenschappelijke argumenten die Torfs gebruikt in de voorstelling van – in zijn geval – het christelijk geloof al dan niet meer steek houden dan de argumenten die Vermeersch hanteert in de voorstelling van dat geloof. Of een meerderheid van gelovigen eerder aansluit bij Torfs dan wel Vermeersch is in eerste instantie niet belangrijk voor wie gelooft in de kracht van rationaliteit en wetenschap.
Los daarvan is de (minstens impliciete) opvatting dat de meeste gelovigen naïeve fundamentalisten zijn (van wie het geloof bijvoorbeeld in conflict zou komen met de moderne natuurwetenschappen) en/of enggeestige lieden (van wie de denkbeelden een voedingsbodem vormen voor geweld) misschien vandaag een van de hardnekkigste enggeestige vooroordelen. ‘De massa’ is altijd op zoek naar houvast en zekerheid. Vroeger vond de massa in Vlaanderen die in een vanzelfsprekend, nauwelijks bekritiseerd en gesocialiseerd katholicisme. Vandaag vindt de massa in Vlaanderen haar zekerheid in een vanzelfsprekend, nauwelijks bekritiseerd en gesocialiseerd atheïsme. Daarnaast zullen er altijd verlichte individuen zijn, zowel aan gelovige als aan ongelovige zijde, die ruimte bieden aan de twijfel.
In onzekere tijden, waarin mensen zich gemakkelijk laten verleiden door populistische extremen die zekerheid beloven, mag er misschien meer aandacht gaan naar de kunst om te twijfelen – ook aan onze eigen zekerheden en onze eigen neiging tot conformisme, diabolisering en polarisering (à la Trump?).
Hierna het volledige artikel uit 2005 (klik op de afbeeldingen om ze te vergroten):
P.S.: In het weekblad Knack van 30 november 2016 staat op pagina 29 een vertaald interview uit Der Spiegel met Brits historicus en publicist Timothy Garton Ash. Een fragment:
Heeft de liberaal het ook niet moeilijk met meningen die hij verwerpelijk vindt? De atheïst verdraagt de gelovige soms even moeilijk als de gelovige de atheïst.
GARTON ASH: Consequent zijn in de tolerantie is voor liberalen soms inderdaad een uitdaging. Ik noem een concreet voorbeeld: de christen die beweert dat homoseksualiteit een zonde is, mag om die reden niet benadeeld worden. Dat verandert als die christen zich niet tot woorden beperkt. Als hij een homoseksuele persoon schade berokkent, bijvoorbeeld door hem een job te weigeren, is de grens overschreden.
Vergelijk dit met een voorbeeld uit het artikel van 2005:
De Italiaanse katholiek Rocco Buttiglione werd bijvoorbeeld niet aanvaardbaar geacht zitting te nemen in de Europese Commissie. Hij had gezegd dat hij homoseksualiteit zondig vond. […] Linkse politici wilden […] Buttiglione uit de Europese Commissie, ook al onderschreef die het principe van de scheiding tussen kerk en staat zeer duidelijk. De filosofieprofessor verklaarde immers dat het belangrijk is “een onderscheid te maken tussen moraal en recht. Vele dingen kunnen als immoreel worden beschouwd en moeten toch niet worden verboden. Ik kan homoseksualiteit een zonde vinden, maar dat heeft geen gevolgen zolang ik het geen misdaad noem. De staat heeft niet het recht zich op dit gebied te mengen.”
Voor alle duidelijkheid: lang niet alle christenen vinden homoseksualiteit een zonde (ik ben zelf christen en beschouw homoseksualiteit niet als zondig). Dat betekent echter niet dat anderen geen andere mening mogen hebben (hoezeer ik het ook oneens ben met die mening). Het is de discriminatie van mensen met een andere dan de zogezegd “liberale, progressieve” mening die een quasi geïnstitutionaliseerde vorm van hypocrisie openbaart. Het westers liberalisme blijkt helemaal niet zo tolerant te zijn als het van zichzelf beweert. Zoiets wordt vroeg of laat afgestraft. De verkiezing van Donald Trump heeft óók daarmee te maken. De satiricus Jonathan Pie zegt het goed:
In plaats van mensen te diaboliseren, ga je er beter mee in debat, en voer je discussies op grond van rationele argumenten. Dát zou “verlicht” zijn. Mensen met een andere mening dan de “liberaal progressieve” afschilderen als “kwaadaardig” en/of “achterlijk”, is een vorm van paternalistisch levensbeschouwelijk imperialisme, een vorm van cultureel totalitarisme. En daar zijn “we” zogezegd toch tegen?
Ruben Van Gucht, a Belgian sports journalist, did a little research on the question whether soccer teams really benefit from firing a coach and attracting a new one when a team is not delivering expected results. He presented his results on De Afspraak (December 8, 2015), a Belgian TV-show.
The short answer to Van Gucht’s research question is NO.
Similar research done in other countries already suggested this outcome.
Often there is a short-term effect, but this has more to do with statistical regularity, especially when considered from the perspective of long-term effects. Indeed, in the long run there seem to be no significant differences between the results under the guidance of the former coach and those of the new one.
Victories as well as defeats of soccer teams are just that: TEAM EFFORTS & EXPERIENCES. Of course it is tempting to look for a scapegoat in times of crisis. And coaches are easy targets. But as Van Gucht’s research reveals: a coach is not a decisive factor; he’s just one of many.
Coincidentally, I wrote about the tendency to use coaches as scapegoats in an introduction to my course on René Girard’s mimetic theory in high school. Here’s an excerpt:
The mimetic building blocks of our psycho-social fabric are at once responsible for the preservation and disintegration of that very same fabric. One of the well-tried means to restore a social order that is in crisis because of escalating mimetic rivalry, is the so-called scapegoat mechanism. This restoration again rests on mimetic processes. Let’s turn to the example of the soccer team once more. When a team loses time and again, that’s normally no favorable factor for the group atmosphere. Teammates start blaming each other for bad results, maybe even sabotaging each other. There also might be ill-will towards the coach by players who feel they’re not given enough opportunities to play matches. And when the coach becomes part of the rivalry and frustrations within the team, that’s usually the end of his career there. As more players imitate the ill-will of some teammates towards their coach, the latter becomes the one held responsible for all the major problems within the team, and he’ll be fired by the board in the end. Instead of recognizing the mimetic origins of social disorder, people tend to blame one outsider or a group of outsiders. This scenario is well-known. Coaches indeed often function as convenient scapegoats, as they are outsiders because of their position of leadership, and they are easily blamed unjustly for a crisis they’re not or only partly responsible for. Like other scapegoats they’re interpreted in a twofold manner by the group they’re expelled from: perceived as the main cause for the tensions, divisions and disorder within the group, and experienced as the main cure while being sacrificed (expelled, or worse) to restore unity and order within that same group. Scapegoats are at once villain and hero, monster and savior, hated and loved, unwanted and wanted, scorned yet needed. Think, for example, of dictatorial regimes who blame all their domestic problems on foreign enemies. As long as a dictator can unite his citizens against some outside enemy, he can at least prevent them from uniting against himself and remain in the saddle. This means that he cannot completely destroy the enemy he publicly loathes. Dictators need the periodic sacrifice of their scapegoat in order to preserve the social fabric on a very large scale, but human beings in general tend to use the scapegoat mechanism on a day-to-day basis, albeit often in smaller ways.
Even before the terrorist shootings at Charlie Hebdo and later this year at other sites in Paris, quality labeled Belgian magazines and newspapers reported on the socially precarious situation in certain areas of Brussels, especially in Molenbeek. I’ve translated parts of an article that appeared in Knack magazine concerning the issue. Next to this article I’ve translated parts of other articles as well (from Knack magazine and De Standaard newspaper). These appeared in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. I will use some findings of these articles to answer a few questions on the nature of the conflict we’re dealing with when we’re talking about “homegrown terrorism”.
FIRST QUESTION: IS IT A “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS”?
FROM AN ARTICLE BY HAN RENARD:
Rachid Zegzaoui is a blogger of Moroccan descent living in Sint-Joost-ten-Node [another municipality of Brussels]. Rachid notices how many youngsters turn their back on the society they grew up in. “Second and third generation migrants no longer believe that a life of study, career and retirement is fit for them and consider their parents losers. They accuse their parents of being slaves to the West and the infidels. So it is a generational conflict as well, a revolt against their family. Parents are dead worried but no longer understand their offspring. They don’t know what their children are doing on the internet. In many Muslim families there is a complete sense of disunity. Young people reject the society in which they grew up. Religion guides their life, it is the meaning of their existence. But Islam as they understand it is not practiced here in Belgium.” […]
Zeguendi Khalil, editor in chief of Le Maroxellois, a magazine aimed at the Moroccan community, joins in. During one month and a half, Khalil listened to sermons with regard to the war in Syria in about twenty Mosques in Brussels. He concludes that imams warn their young audience against Jihad ideology and that imams sharply condemn ISIS terrorism. “However”, he says, “from our inquiry we know that members for Jihad are recruited through the internet nowadays, while this used to happen on the streets or in the near of Mosques.” Imported imams from Morocco or Turkey in Brussels don’t understand the young, Khalil explains. They don’t speak their language, nor know their culture and don’t have any clue whatsoever about Facebook or WhatsApp. “Imams fail. And so young Muslims, looking for meaning, construct their own version of Islam aided by Jihadist websites.”
We need positive role models, according to Khalil. Young Muslims who made it one way or the other should be put forward.
Young Islamologist Jessika Soors works as an official against radicalization in Vilvoorde. […] Although Jihadists justify their departure with the ideal of a holy war, many of them hardly knew anything about Islam and the Quran just before their sudden radicalization. “They’re religiously illiterate in many cases”, Soors says. […] ISIS appeals to vulnerable young people who are looking for a sense of self-worth and an all-encompassing identity.” […]
Young people who are bored here or who feel rejected, become members of ISIS in a quest for adventure. […] ISIS propaganda promises superstardom to those who feel lost in the West – all in the name of Allah.
MORE IN Knack, September 24, 2015, Voor Allah én het avontuur (p. 28-32), by Han Renard.
ANSWER TO THE FIRST QUESTION: NO. It is a clash within civilizations and cultures, not between them. Radicalized young Muslims seem to reject western society (although things like ISIS propaganda films borrow their look from western action movies and video games), but they also turn their back on the culture of their family and the imported imams from Morocco and Turkey. They create a new counter-culture which thrives on the internet. Their religion is mainly a consequence, not a cause of their violent tendencies. And the terror boys grow beards like hipsters (or was it the other way around?).
SECOND QUESTION: IS IT A “CLASH BETWEEN THE SEXES”?
FROM AN ARTICLE BY HAN RENARD:
Ahmed El Khanouss (CDH) is a jurat in Molenbeek, an impoverished municipality of Brussels and home to many migrants. Most of them are of Moroccan descent. […]
Khanouss notices how radicalization of youngsters expresses itself in two ways. “Some of them totally change their attitude. All of a sudden they become very demanding towards the women in their family, particularly with regard to their clothing, and they rebel against their parents. Others show no sign of radicalization until the day they leave. They wear brands and behave themselves like any western kid.” […]
MORE IN Knack, September 24, 2015, Voor Allah én het avontuur (p. 28-32), by Han Renard.
FROM AN ARTICLE BY TINNEKE BEECKMAN:
“Porn-watching losers”. That’s how London mayor Boris Johnson described the Jihadists psychological profile. He claims paraphrasing a confidential report from intelligence service MI5. Jihadists don’t know how to approach women and feel rejected. To compensate for their lack of self-esteem they go to war. They could have equally become members of a youth gang. Johnson’s subtle analysis doesn’t get you very far in understanding a phenomenon like extremism, but he does point to another current topic: the fact that a sense of identity goes hand in hand with sexuality. And also the fact that many people feel lost when temptations and romantic feelings are the ultimate measure.
Radicalized young people are not capable of dealing with that kind of freedom. They look for a social framework with clearly established roles for men and women. They long for stable patterns. They loathe LGBT’s and women’s rights because they consider these to be disrupting. They want to go back to a clear definition of the masculine and the feminine. But the West has dismantled such definitions. It’s because of this context that any kind of extremism becomes attractive: it offers a simple solution, a clarity which leaves no room for doubt.
Loneliness and sexuality are also major themes in Michel Houellebecq’s “Soumission” (Submission), a novel displaying the advantages of a patriarchal society. The author considers the hypothesis that leftist parties in France form a coalition with an Islamic party led by Mohammed Ben Abbes. Ben Abbes thus becomes president of France in 2022. The paradox is that in the final round only rightwing conservative parties remain: Marine Le Pen (FN) is the opponent of Ben Abbes.
Houellebecq’s talent consists in capturing the spirit of the age like some contemporary Balzac or de Maupassant. His novel is about the difficult heritage of a free, libertarian consumerist society brought by May 1968. Islam plays an important part in resisting this new society. It fills an ideological void. France so eagerly destroyed part of its own tradition that neither Catholicism nor the proud Republican morality offer an alternative. Ben Abbes and his moderateIslam thus embody the possibility of a political conservatism, with more stable family relationships, law and order in the outskirts of the city and less unemployment: women stay at home. No more disruptions, no more failing romantic love affairs. Religion even answers the riddles of the universe.
Houellebecq suggests that many men would be prepared to get rid of feminism. Many of them don’t care about a postmodernist ideology that leaves every individual the possibility to define its own (sexual) identity. […]
MORE IN De Standaard, February 2, 2015, Over radicale jongeren en seks (Column Tinneke Beeckman).
ANSWER TO THE SECOND QUESTION: MAYBE. At least it seems part of it. Western society seems liberating for women but it has its own forms of sexism. The question whether or not a certain image of women is oppressive depends on the motivations that guide women to uphold that image. If women conduct themselves in a certain way to gain social recognition or because of a fear of social rejection, they actually don’t accept themselves and they will tend to look down on women who make other choices (forms of auto-aggression lead to forms of hetero-aggression).
More generally, from a patriarchal viewpoint, socially and sexually emancipated women (who make their own choices, in whatever direction – “chaste” or “not so chaste”) are often experienced as a threat. René Girard helps us understand why women are depicted as troublemakers and how they, more specifically (sexually) emancipated women, become scapegoats, unjustly held responsible for all kinds of evil in the world. The sexist reasoning often goes something like this. Emancipated women are no longer dependent on their husbands. This means that they can more easily divorce them. Divorces potentially trouble the mind of children and youngsters, who might lose the security of a “home”. Hence juvenile delinquency could increase as young people get together in gangs to create a sense of self-worth and identity. Thus the stability of society as a whole is threatened by women who refuse to remain faithful to the man they’re married off to. Moreover, sexually independent women can stir rivalry and violence between men, which once again destabilizes the internal cohesion of a community. Indeed, sex (eros) might lead to death (thanatos).
To avoid these potential troubles patriarchal societies have the tendency to suppress the freedom of women. This means women have to pay for the potential rivalry between men and the potential lack of responsibility of other members of the society. Instead of taking responsibility for their rivalrous and even violent desires and instead of taking control of them, patriarchal men blame women for their own behavior. And instead of taking more responsibility as a parent, patriarchal men also blame women if their offspring ends up on the wrong track… Peace and order in society, according to the patriarchal system, can only be obtained by keeping women in check. In other words, women and their freedom are violently sacrificed in order to establish “peace and quiet”.
It is no surprise that emancipated women are targeted as “symbols” of a “decadent western society”. Radicalized young Muslims who grew up with the “great expectations” sold by the West’s consumerist society but who started resenting that very same society once they felt rejected, come to the same conclusions as some oldwhite conservative fundamentalist Christians. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed “the gays and the lesbians and the feminists” for 9/11 (click here for more on this).
Apart from pointing to the West’s hypocritical stance towards the suffering of Muslims in the world, young radicalized Muslims justify their terrorist actions by pointing to the so-called decadence of western society’s tolerance for “the gays and the lesbians and the feminists”. Some fundamentalist Christians claim the West has to blame itself for the terrorist attacks it experiences, as some radicalized Muslims claim the West has to blame itself for the terrorist attacks it experiences. Once again, it is not “the Christian West” against “the Islamic East”, it is NOT A CLASH BETWEEN CIVILIZATIONS, but a clash within a globalizing consumerist world. Indeed, economic interests are often the key factors in international policymaking decisions, more than a concern for human rights – although the West always claims it defends “modern democracy”.This doesn’t mean that terrorists are justified in using this hypocrisy to violate human rights themselves, but the fact remains they do justify their actions in this way. Terrorists often don’t belong to “the poorest of the poor”, but also to relatively “wealthy” people who feel western society creates “injustices”. Of course a so-called “individualist” society is good for the economy (instead of selling one car to a family you sell three as a car dealer since Mum, Dad and Son or Daughter are all busy developing their very own “project” in life), but it also destabilizes “traditional” family relationships (Mum, Dad and Son or Daughter are doing “their own thing”). And more consumption might lead to more environmental issues. Hell, from the viewpoint of some twisted patriarchal minds, the emancipation of women and other individuals might even cause a catastrophic apocalyptic climate change!
As for the Jesus Christ of the Gospels: he is a “destabilizer”. How about that, Pat Robertson? Throughout the Gospels it becomes clear that Jesus criticizes the universal tendency of human communities to structure themselves according to the identification of a common enemy or a common victim (be it an individual or a group). So on the one hand, concerning the group people are part of and that often manifests itself at the expense of a common enemy (for instance an adulteress who is about to be stoned – see John 8:1-11), it is no surprise that Jesus sows discord. It is no coincidence that he claims (Matthew 10:34-36): “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” This intention of Jesus, to create conflict where there is a certain order, is actually and paradoxically a plea against violence. Family members who slavishly obey a pater familias, tribe members who harmoniously feel superior to other groups, criminal gangs who blindly pledge allegiance to the mob boss, cult members and fundamentalist believers who are prepared to fight for their leader and their God till death, anxious employees who sell their soul to keep their job in a sick working environment, (youthful) cliques who strengthen their internal cohesion by bullying someone, whole nations who bow to the demands of a populist dictator and execute so-called “traitors” – Jesus doesn’t like it one bit.
Opposed to the small and big forms of “peace” based on oppression and violence, of which the Pax Romana in the time of Jesus is an obvious case of course, Jesus challenges people to build peace differently. Family members who belong to a “home” where they can have debates with each other, members of enemy tribes who end age old feuds by questioning their own perception of “the other tribe”, former criminals who start to behave like “moles” to clear their violent Mafia gang, fundamentalists who – realizing what they do to those who supposedly don’t belong to “the chosen ones” – liberate themselves from religious indoctrination, employees who address a reign of terror at their workplace, individuals who criticize the bullying of their own clique, pacifists who dare to dissent with the violent rule of a dictatorship and unveil its enemy images as grotesque caricatures – Jesus likes it. “Love your enemies”, Jesus says. Everyone who no longer condemns the external enemy of his own particular group because of a stirred up feeling of superiority, generates internal discord: “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” It’s only logical.
In short, Jesus argues in favor of non-violent conflict in order to end violent peace. That’s why he can say on the other hand, eventually (John 14:27): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”
THIRD QUESTION: IS IT A “SPIRITUAL CLASH” WITHIN HUMAN NATURE?
FROM AN ARTICLE BY CHRIS DESTOOP:
Ernst Kat, a convert, is active as an “Islamic psychologist” who treats lots of radicalized youngsters. […] “Part of the Jihadists have serious mental issues”, he says. “Many of them suffer from paranoia. They distrust others and they heavily engage in conspiracy theories. They feel rejected by society and have developed hypersensitivity. […] Their problems can also cause an enormous depression. They remain motionless, feel banned and are at a dead end. When recruiters approach these psychologically vulnerable young people and offer them an orderly model like Jihad this can be very attractive. It can cause a rapid radicalization. But most of them are not violent towards others. They become auto-aggressive.”
MORE IN Knack, January 14, 2015, Het monster zit vanbinnen (p. 36-37), by Chris Destoop.
FROM AN ARTICLE IN DE STANDAARD:
Since a couple of years Marion Van San has been conducting a research into families of young people who went to war in Syria, implying that she is closely connected to about ninety such families. […]
Van San defends the idea that “the more young people are integrated, the more they are susceptible to radicalization”. Children and grandchildren of immigrants are born and raised here, and they want to be accepted. “The consequence is that their social expectations are higher than those of others and that they are often more sensitive about (supposed and real) discrimination”, Van San writes.
MORE IN De Standaard, February 2, 2015, Radicalisering dreigt vooral bij geïntegreerde jongeren (Politiek, p. 5).
ANSWER TO THE THIRD QUESTION: YES. It is a clash within and between human beings who feel rejected by and reject each other. Instead of discovering a Love that allows them to accept themselves even if they are rejected (or feel rejected) by their social environment, they develop forms of auto- and hetero-aggression to create a sense of “pride” and “social status”. To put things Biblically (and in the words of Bruce Springsteen), “Adam raised a Cain” (click to watch). John Steinbeck magnificently summarizes the universal meaning of the Cain and Abel story in his novel East of Eden.
All of us are like Cain, one way or the other, but young radicalized ISIS terrorists commit the sin of murder and show the lack of neighborly love in the most gruesome way. As the Chinese butler Lee explains in Steinbeck’s novel in his comments on the meaning of the Cain and Abel story, the individual biography of many a young ISIS terrorist and the history of the world would have looked quite different without the feeling of rejection and with the acceptance of Love:
“I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. I’m feeling my way now – don’t jump on me if I’m not clear. The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt – and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there – the start, the beginning. One child, refused the love he craves, kicks the cat and hides the secret guilt; and another steals so that money will make him loved; and a third conquers the world – and always the guilt and revenge and more guilt. The human is the only guilty animal. Now wait! Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul – the secret, rejected, guilty soul.”