Monday, August 31, 2009

Should we attempt to change others?

I've been on vacation for the past couple of weeks. And on vacation you get to catch up with some of the leisures you miss during the year such as watching your favourite TV shows. So I decided to play some of my "Star Trek: The Next Generation" DVDs. I already said that "Star Trek" is somewhat an exception from American pop-culture since it is not shallow like most of it's products and some of it's episodes truly makes you pause and think. Such was the clifhanger between the 6th and 7th season "Descent".

The episode is a sort of a follow-up to the fifth season episode "I, Borg". For those unacquainted with "Star Trek", Borg are the chief antagonists of the Federation in this series. They are automated cybernetic organisms, connected into the Borg Collective. They have no individuality and their sole purpose is to assimilate other species and races into their Collective. In "I, Borg", the crew of the "Enterprise" captures one of the Borg who influenced by them develops individuality. This Borg, named Hugh, was later returned to the Collective in hope that his sense of individuality will spread around it thus causing the Borg race to be changed forever.

In "Descent" we see that the plan to infect the Borg with individuality worked but the results were far from those expected. The infected Borg were severed from the Collective, and among the outcasts began to reign chaos. Since they had no previous sense of individuality the cast-away Borg had no idea what to do with it, what kind of community to create, or give themselves a purpose for their existence.

As such, they became prey of Lore, the evil twin of the android officer of the "Enterprise", Lt.Commander Data. As Hugh, whom we meet again in this episode, recounted, it was not hard for Lore to seize power over the Borg:

"...we had no idea even how to operate our vessel. When Lore came we were ready to listen to anyone that had promised change and a way out of this situation. We all gladly followed at first his promises of a glorious future. When it became clear he had no idea how to fullfill these promises, he began talking of sacrifice..."

Lore had managed to find a purpose and meaning to the cast-away Borg. Instead of assimilating species like they used to do, the new Borg, which became more agressive and skillful, began destroying them. In short, the new Borg became a more deadly and vicious enemy then the old Borg ever were.

I believe you already recognized some similar situations from human history. Traditional society torn apart, disorianted population, unaware of it's role in the world and in history, brought to the point when they are ready to follow anyone that promises redemption. But this episode is more then a simple warning against false messiahs...

This episode is propably the best argument in favour of the so-called "prime directive" and the principle of non-interfierence into traditional societies of other nations and cultures, even those hostile to our own. As one could see, even if one manages to initiate changes within the enemy it is by no means a guarantee that this change will be for the better. And we need not go too far in tha past to confirm it. All that it takes is to see in whose hands Iraq ended up after Saddam Hussein was deposed.

Contemporary generations in the west, even the elite, are more versed into pop-culture then in classical sciences. Unfortunately, most have picked wrong films and series to shape their worldview. This is why we are in such a sorry state...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Inglorious basterds" - review

Having read several reviews of Quentin Tarantino's latest work "Inglorious basterds" I had thought that Hollywood had finally managed to brainwash him and was fully prepared to see something like "Rambo meets Dirty Dozen" on steroids along with historical revisionism to boot. After actually seeing the film I'm glad to say I was wrong.

"Inglorious basterds" are on one hand classic Tarantino, and on the other hand they are not. There is the wanton violence and foul language brought to the absurd sometimes as well as the synopsis formed as a sort of an omnibus consisting of seemingly unrelated yet strangely interweened stories, but there are also hommages to earlier works of other authors as well as short narated flashbacks when introducing new characters in the "Lock, stock and two smoking barrels" mould.

The film begins in occupied France in 1941 when SS standartenfuhrer Hans Landa(Cristopher Waltz) finds a Jewish family Dreyfuss hiding in a cattle farm and brutally murders them. Only the daughter Shoshana survives miracolously. Three Years later Lt. Aldo Raine(who would have thought that Brad Pitt coul do a Southern accent so well) forms a small unit of American Jewish servicemen in order to drop behind enemy lines into France and literaly terrorize the Germans. At the same time Shoshana gets a chance for revenge and starts planning it...

Much praise was given to the opening scene of the film, or rather the first chapter, when the aforementioned murder of the Jewish family occurs. I can tell you that it fully lives up to the hype and is almost worth the price of admission alone. It is a fantastic hommage by Tarantino to Segio Leone's spaghetti-westerns all along with the musical score that mixes Beethoven and Ennio Moricone. The quasi-philosophical pleasant-toned conversation Landa engages in with the owner of the farm that hides the Jews only completes the sinisterness of the character, and the pipe gesture that some have interpreted as a comical or even pharsical undercut enhances the impression even further. Whether the director meant it or not, the whole thing strikingly resembles that statement of one of Isreali reporters from the Eichmann trial that the most terrifying fact about Eichmann is that he is not terrifying at all.

From there it is a bit of a roller coaster rhytm-wise, with action and violence interchanging with conversations that at times seem pointless but whose purpose is revealed very soon and the director and writer manage to stop them just at the moment when the viewer is tempted to look at his watch. Tarantino should also be praised for having his characters speak in their proper languages, not ridicolously accented English as it is custom in Hollywood, although it somewhat defies belief to see some of the characters as bilingual.

As usual with Tarantino, the seemingly separate stories eventually confluate into one. Just like the beggining, Tarantino's end is an hommage, this time to "The Dirty Dozen" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It is the end that was deemed most controversial. Tarantino was accused of re-writing history but the film itself has a perfect answer to that charge. The re-writing of history by the powers-that-be ready to do anything to achieve their goal goes on within Tarantino's alternate reality itself, abd Brad Pitt and one of his men manage only partly to tell the world the real truth through a symbolic(literally) gesture. After that, you can not help but wonder whose revisionism is more dangerous? And who the real "inglorious basterds" refered to in the title?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No sooner said then done

Couple of weeks ago I said that islamists were overstepping the line with their going against football and that such actions will more then anything else create a backlash(since the mental state of Europe is such).

That didn't take long, didn't it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's standard MO

Gray Falcon has recorded yet another case of unbelievable hipocricy manifested by the New York Times. Notihing ne in that, this is a case of "dog bites man" kind of news. The Times has been for decades the media forefront of the liberal progressive behaviour which can be described shortly in the maxim that good is when they rob the neighbouring village and evil when the neighbouring village robs them.

What is new is the ever-more blatant such behaviour of the elected officials. Spurred on by the Times and the like they now feel free to drop anylabel they deem necessary in order to discredit people that hold opposing views. Didn't they use to say that "dissent is patriotic"? It depends against whom you are dissenting, I guess.

We may have 21st century technology but morally we are descending towards the Stone Age. The worst scenario imaginable...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Health care - is there a "right" prescription for it?

I usually enjoy reading the works of Ilana Mercer on any subject, however I can not say that about her latest column that criticizes Obama's attempt at health-care reform.

Firstly, her piece is almost entirely based on anegdotal evidence. While I'm not attempting to belittle her obviously traumatic experience described in it, anegdotal evidence is not reliable standing ground. There are personal stories, legitimate just as much as that of Mercer, which tell exactly the opposite: that American health-care system is inhumane and inefficient while having only praise for the Canadian one. In her coulmn Mercer provides almost no independent research to back-up her thesis, we only have her personal experience as an indicator of what the entire hoopla is all about.

Second, I feel that Ilana Mercer has adopted a completely dogmatic approach to health-care, comparable to the one of neo-liberal economists towards economy, both fields that simply can not tolerate any dogmae. No social area, and health-care is certainly one of the most important ones, can be treated as an exact science, there is no universal formula that provides the right solution. The "right" health-care system depends on the society as a whole and almost all of it's factors, which include national tradition and culture and the state and structure of the economy as a whole, contribute to it's creation and it's functioning.

Ilana Mercer can do better, I've read enough of her works to know that for a fact.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

They are pushing it a bit too far now

First they go after Man United and now they want to change Schalke's traditional fan song because it offends them. Islamists are seriously stretching beyond their reach now. These guys don't know what they are messing with.

This I write only partly tongue-in-cheek. I know it says a lot about the state of which European peoples are in, but anyone who knows the menatlity of the current population can confirm I speak the truth. People in Europe may be totally indiferent to their cultural, historical and religious heritage, mildly concerned about their political rights, but if someone touches their football team all hell breaks loose!

I'll never forget one TV documentary I watched which was dedicated to the Hillsborough disaster. Liverpool's center-forward at the time John Aldridge visited the injured fans in hospital. They asked him to talk to one comatose fan. As he stood by the bed the man woke up, and one of the first things he asked was: "Could you get me tickets for the Final?" Unbelievable, he just miracoulously escaped death and all he thought about is getting to Wembley. And he is the rule, not the exception.

If the islamist infringement with football continues, it very well could produce a monumental backlash. And if it doesn't...Well, Europe is truly a dead continent, then.