jeudi 25 mars 2010

An Awkward Correlation

I strongly suspect that the amount of sports news in printed press and TV is correlated with the amount of overweight people... In the past, when overweight wasn't yet a problem, sports news occupied quite a modest place among other news. Nowadays when about a quarter of news is dedicated to sports, obesity has become a huge problem. Virtual sports, following sports events in TV is certainly one of many causes of obesity. Should we cut drastically the media coverage of sports to fight it?

lundi 22 mars 2010

Vinnemaast kõneldas...

Viimätsel aol omma Eesti poliitiku tulnu vagurambas. Vinne-vastast retoorikat on vähämb; aolehin iks om vannamuudu, a ministri kõnelase joba, et piät iks Vinnemaaga asju aama ja suhtit hoitma. President ütel, et Eesti ei saa umma jonni aada ütsindä, ku kõk muu eurooplase mõtlese ja toimetase tõisilde. Üts analüütikus kutsut provva ütel, et Vinnemaa om prõlla mõõdukamb ku olli. Mi hädä om tuu, et õiget analüütikat ole-i oleman. Analüütika piässi arutama toda, mis neo ütlemise ja tegemise õigehe tähendäse. Mis president mõtel, ku ütel, et piät Moskvahe minemä. Ja mis tuu analüütikus kutsut provva mõtel, ku ütel, et Vinnemaa om mõõdukamb. Ja toda võissi ka analüüsi, et ku üts konverents vai mis tä olli, Tallinan peetüs sai, kon üts Vinnemaa raudtii suur asjamiis ka olli, sis mi ministri võtiva ja kõneliva vinne kiilt. Konkotsil omma mi analüütiku, kiä rahvale neo asja är seletässi ja ümbre panessi? Ma esi mõtle, et ole-i Vinnemaa mõõdukamb joht, a vägevämb om küll. Gruusia sõda näüdäs toda väega häste ja toda ka, et õdagu puult tule-i avitust, piät inne uma mõistusele ja jõule luutma. Ja vast sis tuuperäst kõk neo jutu ja toimetamise. Ja õigehe om mul hää miil, et Vinnemaast kõneldas nigu ammu olessi võinu kõnelda: ole-i ma konagi mõtelnud, et Vinnemaa om põrgu vöörüs ja vinne poliitiku õkva vanakuradi sulase. Hää om kaia ja kullelda, ku mõistus kodo nakas tulema.

vendredi 19 mars 2010

In defence of Richard Dawkins

I've read Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion", and many comments about the book and its author. Quite often Dawkins is labelled an extremist, a kind of an militant atheist preacher, and in this way, several authors explicitly distance themselves from him as from a bad-mannered youngster. In good company you don't spit on floor, don't use slang words and speak reverently about God and religion.

I don't wholly agree. I think there should be some parity between religious discourse and discourse critical of religion. If we compare Dawkins with most priests, pastors, preachers, ayatollahs, imams, mullahs etc, he seems extremely mild and polite. He doesn't incite people to burn churches, to kill believers, he doesn't want to prohibit religion, he doesn't say religions are work of Satan and must be fought against with all available means, he doesn't want to ostracize religious people, doesn't want to punish church-goers, doesn't think celibacy, homosexuality, heterosexuality, abortion, contraception, test-tube babies and cartoons depicting Jesus or Muhammad are crimes. What he wants is abolition of various privileges churches and other religious organizations still possess. He wants atheists and agnostics to have similar chances to speak about their views and to propagate them. He doesn't do what so many religious people do every day. He doesn't think that he can speak with divine authority, that he cannot be mistaken, as so many preachers, pastors and imams who have no respect for people who have different beliefs or non-beliefs. I cannot but remember a phrase from a finnish orthodox journal where it was stated that the Mari (Cheremis) native religion had "absolutely no value" and, accordingly, the Maris should be converted to Christianity, preferably to the best variety of it, i.e. to Orthodoxy.

My own views are somehow different. I would like to see the deep psychological knowledge, the age-old wisdom about human life, suffering, joy and freedom to be liberated from the supervision of all breeds of ayatollahs and theologians, and to be translated into a different language that is not a language of belief, where there must not be a God as supreme arbiter and authority. I want us human beings to accept the fact that we live in a world where there is no absolute certainty. I believe it is perfectly possible and even unavoidable, if we want to survive on this planet (or maybe somewhere else). My God plays dice, and I think we can well enjoy playing dice with him. Or without him. No difference.

mercredi 10 mars 2010

No Words at the End of the World

There are things I avoid describing and speaking about. I cannot and dont't want to say anything about the redwood trees I saw on the coast of Oregon and northern California. I don't want to tell anything about what I felt and thought looking at them and walking under their shade. I don't want to say much about my emotions and thoughts at the Cabo de Sao Vicente in Portugal. This cape is the extreme soutwestern point of the European continent, and until the Portuguese discovery of the Acores and Madeira, and before the discovery of America it was considered the end of the world. The Romans called it Promontorium Sacrum -- the Sacred Promontory. I have no proper words to describe the redwood trees and the cape at the end of the world. But somehow I feel there are things we should not try to describe, things that should remain nameless, undescribable, ineffable. In the past such things were considered sacred. Perhaps they still are. We should understand our limitations and the limitations of our language and thought.

vendredi 5 mars 2010

Religion for Egoistic Male Genes

Yesterday I read a shocking story told by an Estonian serviceman in Afghanistan. A young girl escaping from a rapist had climbed over the wall of the NATO military camp. She escaped the rapist, but was later shot by her father: he thought too many faithless men had seen her daughter unveiled, it was a shame for him... I am more and more convinced that religion, especially the big monotheistic religions, and especially the Islam among them, are well engineered devices that help human males to guarantee the survival and successful and exclusive transmission of their genes. Religion gives men control over their wives, makes it very difficult for the females to get inseminated by other males except the men who possess (I think it's the right word) them. A girl is strictly controlled by her father, then handed over to her husband (and his kin). Any chance of her even meeting other males is made virtually impossible by the religious law and custom. In Saudi Arabia, flirting is a crime, religious police persecuting young people seen chatting and laughing in public places... In Christianity too, free sex was and is considered a grave sin, and in some traditionalist societies women's sexual behaviour was very strictly regulated, and having an extramarital child was one of the most shameful things that could happen to a girl. In the past, admonishing such girls was a favourite pastime of Lutheran pastors, although our ancestors didn't consider sex the mother of all sins, and in some places unmarried mothers were not ostracized by village people at all. What we see in places like southern Afghanistan or Aceh, is male control of female sexuality run amoc, become an obsession. Shared by the Salafiyah ideology in general. I remember that for Sayyed al-Qutb, one of the most influential ideologues of the Salafiyah Islam, seeing young people dancing and flirting in America was a shock experience, a vivid example of the moral degradation of the West. For me, al-Qutb's indignation at young people expressing their erotic feelings, is a sign of the sexual paranoia inherent in some forms of Islam. A paranoia that can well be explained by the theories of evolutionary psychology. On the ethical level, I cannot but quote my friend Gary Snyder who told that the world would need several thousands of years to overcome the bad karma created by the monotheistic religions. But I'm afraid that we don't have so much time to turn our attention from sexophobia, homophobia and misogynia to real dangers facing ourselves and our planet.

A Beneficial Disaster?

I have believed that a "moderate" ecological disaster would be good, it would push people toward a more sustainable way of life, help us to put brakes to our wasteful consumerism. But reading about developments in the Indonesian Atjeh (Aceh) province, I am beginning to doubt whether such a disaster would really help us. Atjeh that lost more than two hundred thousand people killed by the huge tsunami has now adopted a very rigid form of fundamentalist Islam, favoured by the idea that the tsunami was sent by Allah as punishment for people's sins. Such ideas can easily gain ground in the USA as the rhetoric of some influential evangelical preachers after the catastrophic flood in New Orleans has shown. Thus, an ecological disaster can be followed by an ideological disaster that can make things worse not better. Instead of fighting against big cars and big houses preachers will fight against homo-marriages and sex education...