Monday, November 05, 2007

The Plague of Pirates and Romantics: Arrrgh!

Military.Com: "Navy Gives Pirates Cause to Cry 'Argh'"

Somali pirates gave up control of two ships hijacked months earlier and U.S. Navy escorted the boats to safer waters Sunday as it stepped up efforts to bring security to the seas off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
The pirates climbed into small skiffs and headed back to Somalia after speaking by radio to U.S. naval personnel. A Navy ship and helicopter guided the South Korean-owned boats Mavuno 1 and 2 further out to sea.

It was the third time in a week the U.S. has intervened to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates. Sailors boarded a North Korean ship to give medical assistance to crew members who overpowered their hijackers, and a U.S. naval vessel fired on pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese-owned ship.

(Cmdr. Lydia Robertson of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain) said the increase in U.S. military interventions was mostly due to the a surge in piracy. As the Navy moved ships into the area to respond to one incident, increased contact with other hijacked ships in the area was more likely, she said. "It's not that it's a change in focus," Robertson said. "But we had the opportunity to put some pressure on the pirates >>>

Forget romantic notions about the Revolution, Afghan warlords, latter-day Robin Hoods or piracy. Rather than the picture above, today's pirates come in shapes like this. Not unlike pirates, romanticists are equally a plague. Their tendency to reject the harsh light of reality tends them to look upon the facts of life from a skewed angle. Where decisive measures are required in perhaps preventing even worse, the romantic suggests options of sentimentality.

He does so, not out of empathy with the culprits, but out of consideration for what is the centre piece in his life, his own feelings. Easy scoring against some 'righteous soldier of truth' boosts his self-esteem in no mean measure and - not unimportant - it saves him the trouble of having to deal with the psychological blowback that comes with the territory of accepting responsibilities. Sentimentality actually, says the grandfather of psychology C.G. Jung, is a superstructure covering brutality. This is also philosophically correct, as I shall explain presently.

How romanticism has influenced religion is set out by David Klinghoffer in his book "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus". Besides spilling the beans on the real Judaic view on Jesus (it already being in the public domain for some time), he tells the story of Rabbi Baeck (1873-1956). This revered leader of German Jewry before World War II described how historical periods of moral rectitude since times immemorial have been alterated with epochs, dominated by "romantic tendency that revered not ethical action but emotional experience, that gauzy, swooning sensation of feeling and glorying in being personally 'saved'. This essentially Narcissistic, passive version of religion loves sacred music and wafting incense but can look with indifference on injustice and tyranny."

"By contrast, the Judaic classical counter-tendency thinks less about the self and more about the wrongs done by human beings and directs a focused passion to setting things right on earth. In Baeck's retelling of Christian history, the religion of the historical Jesus was classical while the apostle Paul's was romantic. The romantic and classical tendencies were balanced in the medieval church. With Luther's Reformation, the pendulum swung to the romantic side - which would explain how German Lutheranism could be so indifferent to Nazi violence. In his essay "Romantic Religion", Baeck was already writing on this theme in 1922!"

Germans seem to be in a constant peril in this respect, being described as "incurably romantic' by some authors attempting to capture European national traits in a few pointed words (or what a particular nation would do with a hammer). I can think of a few other tribes as well. I use the word 'tribe' with good cause: according to Justin Halter, blogging Professor of Comparative Religions, the admirer of totalitarianism may be justified in typifying his society of preference as 'tribal'.

Politics is no less subject to these pendulum swings of classical realism versus romanticism. The historical period of Romanticism can be traced back to Rousseau and the movement of Counter Enlightenment of which he was the originator. His idealistic picture of the Noble Savage simply drools unrealistic, romantic notions. The offloading of five of his children on the Paris orphanage tells the story of the innate brutality of the sentimentalist. Somehow it's the children that always suffer most.

It is the same Subjectivist (Relativist) rejection of the real world that is plaguing us today. Not only does it feed the delusion that objective reality does not exist, in the process it also ejects all notions of morality: good and evil do not exist in a make-believe personal cosmos in which everyone is right from his or her personal perspective. In today's terms we call this watershed between reality-based and the delusional the political right, and the political left side of the aisle, respectively.

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