Thursday, September 21, 2006

Golf Wars

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are professional golfers. On the golf course, they are fierce opponents, focused on one thing: victory. Off the course, they are good friends, well, maybe not that close. They have many faithful fans who follow them religiously, to a fault, although I don't think of golf fans as being in the same league as the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, where fans have been known to bloody a few noses and break a few bones. Off season, the players probably go out to eat together. Well, not all of them, but friendships among their legions have been broken over a silly game.

Tiger Woods is African American, Chinese, Native American, Thai, and Caucasian. Maybe more. Because of his dark skin, there are elements yet lurking that will never root for him. He needs to go back to Africa to play golf, some say. What difference does it make that most of his bloodline is of Thai descent? Why should anyone care about his ethnicity, what religion he is, if any, or which side of the bed he gets out of in the morning?

Twenty-some years ago my late friend, Larry Maddox, observed, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was no such thing as different races." I wondered what he meant by it. "Think about it, Dave," he said. "If all races were thrown into a giant blender and out poured one - not black, not white, not yellow, not red, but a mixture of all of us, wouldn't the world rid itself of racism?" That was a very deep thought, but Larry was a philosopher at heart. He was a copywriter at an ad agency I worked for, with a degree in journalism. I wholeheartedly agreed and that impression has never left me. Sometimes, I wish religions were the same way.

I remember the old Hollywood stereotypes. The (then called) colored people were often depicted as docile, subservient and scared to death of ghosts. The mere sight of one would turn them white. Why white? Partially because of this, prejudice prevails. Hatred still runs deep. This country does not stand alone. There's plenty of room in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, it's standing room only. All races play the race card, just like all religions play the religion card. Unfortunately, some more than others and there seems to be an awful lot of misguided stereotyping when it comes to races and religions.

If we span the course of human existence, how many wars have been fought over racism and religion? Where would we begin? Recorded history does not go back far enough to answer where and when it all began. Anthropologists can't even explain the demise of the Neanderthal. After nearly 200,000 years of existence, they suddenly disappeared. Early modern humans are suspected of being responsible. Was it over race or which tribe had the better and stronger sun god? Who's to say? There is some speculation that trade wars existed back then (see and select economists and archeologists suspect that bands of early humans interacted with each other and inter-group trading emerged and that might have played a role in the Neanderthal's extinction. I'm sure they fought over territory.

I'm afraid territorial wars will never go away. It is one thing inherent in all of us to protect our space - or what we perceive as our space. (You can add your own spite-filled opinion on the Israel/Palestine problem here. Go argue with someone else.) An example of this, and I love to explain this scenario to all who banter with me on philosophy and religion, is a very simple one. Here in America, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. It is intended to give thanks to the bountiful blessings we have. It is a love feast where close relatives and friends gather at the table. Hugs abound. We hold hands and give thanks to our respective god and to each other. Then, dinner is served. Everyone has their own placemat, their own "territory" so to speak. I like to take my drinking glass and place it somewhere on the edge of my neighbor's placemat. I have just infringed on their space. Do you have any idea what happens next? Some people don't react, but inside the brain they are all too aware of it. They seek no confrontation, yet they feel awkwardly uncomfortable. Others may just move it back to my side. Some may say something like, "Hey, get that glass off my space." There are probably others, although it's never happened to me, who might curse and throw the glass back at me. Do you get my point? No matter what, territory plays a crucial role. In this case, this private area is perceived as belonging to them, even though they're eating at Aunt Tessie's house. The property is not theirs to begin with. What began as a day filled with love and thanksgiving may end in a fiasco, with brothers and sisters and whole family members taking sides and flinging pumpkin pie at each other. If families and close friends are capable of doing this on such a small, unimportant scale, imagine what countries and cultures are capable of doing to each other when disputed borders are at stake and they are lobbing bombs instead.

Cultural and political wars are most often ideologically driven, sometimes with a smattering of religion thrown in, as in the case of "Kulturkampf" or literally, culture struggle. Then, the 19th century chancellor of Germany, Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, and the German Protestant government attacked the legal rights of Catholics. Why aren't Catholics protesting today over something that happened a mere hundred and some years ago, burning and murdering Germans like some religions are still doing? Some just can't let go of the old, stale past and primitive ways.

Certainly, the entire world is aware of what is going on today with how quick radical extremists are to slice the head off common sense in the name of their god. It's as if God intended mankind to destroy itself. Rather prehistoric thinking, isn't it? As extremists kill in the name of God, are they actually doing it in the name of their religion or are they basing these crude and barbaric forms of torture and death on ideological, self-serving twists of their particular "faith" that stem from their rather undeveloped minds? Undeveloped in the sense that they hold no regard for human life and dignity, not even their own. Ask your leaders if they would do the same for you.

Look at religious figures everywhere. Somewhere along the way, throughout history, haven't many, to a large extent, been responsible for tearing the world apart? Haven't plenty of them taken foreign lands and rendered the inhabitants under their control in one way or another in the name of God?

In order to dominate a region, a leader or conqueror must have a strong cultural and political base. What do China and Iran have culturally and politically in common other than disdain for the United States? Why would Iran, an Islamic Republic, ally itself with an atheist government for any reason other than trade and money, with the stronger one supplying arms and the weaker one supplying oil? Ideologically, they are as far apart as they are with us. On the other hand, aren't we, God fearing people, doing the same thing? Perhaps, religion doesn't play as important a role after all. Perhaps, those violent religious fanatics have it all wrong when invoking God, sometimes with their cleric's blessings, to spread their brand of hatred and death. God, give me genocide. I'm sorry, but you cannot convert the dead. Why do religious and political leaders mention God at all levels and on many of the world's stages? They all seem to have God on their side. The one true God. In war, the victor gives praise to the Almighty. The loser prays for help. Read your history. Many times, it's the same God.

Imagine no religion, John Lennon said. Nothing to kill or die for. He might have been on to something.

Back to Tiger. I'm voting for him in every election. After all, he represents more of the world's races and religions than you or I could ever imagine, but, only if he picks Phil Mickelson as his running mate. The likelihood of that happening is like either one of them going to church on Sunday or the rest of the world giving peace a chance.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, Marinade Dave, thanks for your comment and for directing me towards your very well written article (I am posting this at your blog, but also at mine … a “share the comments” sort of thing). It’s interesting to note that a few years ago Woods was roasted quite cruelly in the Late Night circuit when he reacted negatively to a “joke” made by another golfer (I believe it was Fuzzy Zoeller, but I’d had to cast aspersions if this is incorrect). The comment circulated around “fried chicken” and Tiger enjoying it, because … (well, don’t expect me to expand).

    When he took offence at this, one of the most proto-typical racist of “jokes” (I use the quotation marks because I deny the existence of a racial “joke” – they are neither funny, nor are they necessary. Any “comedian” that feels they need to resort to this type of base humour has no place in my world – and that includes the uber-famous Jerry Seinfeld who, when he wasn’t joking about nothing, was poking fun at various ethnic groups) he was made fun of for having “thin skin”.

    Excuse me, but standing up against racism means quite the opposite: it means you have the skin to withstand the slings and arrows of the most outrageous sorts, the barbs from so-called friends who think there is nothing wrong with “just repeating” what everyone else is saying, without considering the concept that words carry with them an inherent power – a power often denied, but nonetheless present.

    You ask how many wars were fought over the course of human history as a result of religion; I would counter with the following: how many weren’t?

    Here is a possible scenario … names have been changed to protect … well, my reputation as a writer (spelling issues, you understand), and for the various editing of historical periods into short sentences and abbreviated ideas).

    Human history is a history of our species living in restless peace next to each other, first in small villages, where each shared their own traditions regarding the gods. Village 1 probably had a temple and Village 2 only had a large rock altar. Those in V1 who happened to see the rituals in V2 were deeply offended that sacrifices were being made outside, not within the protection of a temple, as they had.

    The only reasonable outcome: V2 had to be “taught” the meaning of the “true faith”. They were attacked, the men were all killed, but the women were kept, expanding the gene pool of V1.

    After many years, V1 was a greater nation, and they still performed their rituals in their temple – now lined with the gold that had been found in the mines of the region when newcomers arrived from across the great waters.

    Speaking a different tongue, these pale-faced wearers of plumage spoke of many things that could not be understood, but the chief of V1 knew that to properly welcome his guests it was only proper to take them to the temple and conduct a ceremony for their new friends.

    The moment the pale-faces saw the flash of the obsidian knife slice into the young virgin’s chest and remove her still-beating heart they knew only one thing: these were servants of the Evil One. They worshipped the devil. Only one who did such could murder a child in the name of their gods.

    Even as the frenzy of the moment was overtaking the villagers of V1, their new visitors had taken on a new attitude, having produced new devices that hadn’t previously been seen.

    It was the “thunder of the gods” that began to fall upon the villagers as the Spaniards began to shoot the village elders, making sure that anyone of authority was accounted for, but unlike the destruction of V2, these conquerors were not interested in anyone surviving, for these were not humans: these were heathen savages who had demonstrated that their perverted ways were not those of God, and that no words could bring them into the fold of His loving embrace, even as he had commanded His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV)

    I find it difficult to imagine a smile on the face of Jesus as he watched the death that was spread “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, as the fervent believers destroyed thousands who wouldn’t accept a message … a message that they couldn’t understand.

    Imagine if the tables were turned today and, oh, let’s say China decided to invade the west. Imagine what the scenario might be if the world was caught off guard by the world’s largest nation suddenly revealing that they had been secretly building the world’s largest naval force, complimented by an air force that made the American’s quake in their boots. Outnumbered by inconceivable forces with superior weapons, the world surrenders.

    Now imagine having to accept the official Chinese religion, without knowing how to speak or read the language (or any of its numerous dialects). Imagine that, in order to have any hope of holding any position above the people cleaning out swears by hand, you had to become a Taoist … worshipping in Chinese. Your other option? Death by hanging.

    Of course this is fantasy … and yet, it is startlingly similar to the early “Christian evangelists” that came from the east with the “good news” for the savages over here in North America. All of a sudden there were these fair-faced creatures that spoke an incomprehensible language, but their message was clear enough: you must abandon your temple. You must accept our God.

    Your journalist-philosopher friend is a very wise man, Dave: wouldn’t it all be better with “one people”. I already believe that we are one people. What is the difference between a Samoan and a Georgian (nor Georgia, U.S.A., but Georgia, the former republic of the USSR)? Skin colour, kinky hair, weight? So what. On this basis would one be judged better or worse than the other? Just because I know that Josef Stalin was a Georgian, I am not going to judge all Georgians as potential psychopaths. That would be like saying all Texans are idiots because … well, you get my drift, don’t you?

    As a doctor on an “A&E” special said, when showing a bunch of kids the results of drinking and driving, “it doesn’t matter how much you have, when you die, this is all that’s left” [sound: the sucking sound made as the viscera of the poor dead bastard is pulled out of their gut. camera: ripped open ribcage, lungs removed. then the doctor deftly reveals the true cause of death, the shredded aortic artery]. “Would he have survived the crash if he had been wearing his seatbelt? [points to aorta] as you can see, this large artery, the aorta, was ripped apart because the heart keeps moving when the body stops: in this case, he was slammed against the steering wheel, breaking most of his ribs. When his heart bounced back, it just kept going, ripping itself apart in less time than it takes to say no to another drink.” [camera: kids turning to sink and hurling their over-priced lunches while trying to still “look cool” for the cameras. one girl is blubbering about “never doing it again”, but only time will tell]

    The doctor turns to look directly at the camera, saying in a deadpan that sends chills up the spine, “it doesn’t matter what you where to the party. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise or spend on ‘beauty’ treatments. If you wind up on my table there is one thing that you have in common with everyone else: you are dead.”

    The converse being, it doesn’t matter what we have, nor how much we spend. It really is of no consequence as to what we possess, for these are transient things and can be replaced while something else cannot. We all share a common bond, from the “most powerful man in the world” to the poorest peasant living on the streets of some forgotten land: we each belong to a single race, the human race.

    The only constant in life, with all due respect to Ben Franklin, is the capacity for our species to be stupid. To judge others because they disagree with us is something that I have always thought to be the height of idiocy. Without dissent it is impossible to see other sides of an issue, and this can only lead to disasters that will cost us more than anything imaginable.

    The idea of coming together, or living in peace as “one people”, scares those who adhere to the idiotic concept of racial purity and the merits thereof. There are no merits to anything that resembles racial purity, eugenics, or is any variation on any of those ideas. What is feared is that the “white race” will become “outnumbered” by the “diluted” races, by the impure, bastardised races. What rubbish.

    Of course, this is not a “whites only” idea. Korea, Japan and even China have had their own fanatical brushes with maintaining the racial purity of their people, to the point that children conceived by American soldiers were often abandoned at orphanages when they were born because they would have been ostracized as “mixed” race children. Some of the children were killed. All because of what they represented: an impure addition to the Korean bloodline.

    There are very few things that will arouse me to such passionate outbursts of verbosity as the issues of racism and religion, so having the two together in the same post, well … I guess I’ve been a bit indulgent. Suffice it to say, this isn’t an issue that is going to resolve itself anytime soon.

    Will any apology from the Pope stop the violence that his original comments set off? No. Why? For the simple reason that fundamentalist psychotics do not really need a reason to resort to violence. It’s like the noise that was made during the protests over the cartoons of Muhammad. Peaceful protests? There were some, of course. But what of the violence: how is this reconciled with the message, “our religion is one of peace”?

    To say “peace, peace”, while throwing bombs is not exactly the greatest way to develop any amount of credibility with those you are trying to convince. At the same time, we should recognize that these are not TRUE representatives of Islam.

    Just as Pat Robertson would not make my number one choice for “Christian Ambassador”, I certainly wouldn’t want to send the “Rev. Phelps”, a man who has been refused entry into Canada because of his hate-filled messages.

    No religion is “innocent”. Religion, by definition, has at its core purpose the coercion of one’s belief system so that they become aligned with that of the “new” system, the “better” system. Do I make this sound like a cult? Good. Take a close look, a very close look. Beware what you may find, for it will not please you.

    Religion only serves to separate humanity from God. For this cause, it is a tremendous success, as for bringing us closer to God, you would have more luck finding inspiration with an amethyst held against your heart while listening to Mozart (considering I just made that up, … well, whatever).

    A closing “tale” of how things might be …

    The Lord grew tired of their unceasing supplications and said, “I shall give you what you seek: but think carefully, for you shall receive exactly what you request,” the Lord said, hoping this would end the screaming and wailing coming from across the planet.

    Before long there came a man to stand before the Lord as their spokesman. “You have come with the request” the voice of God boomed so loudly the man was thrown down to the floor, only then realizing that it was of pure gold, inlaid with the most impossibly beautiful gems imaginable.

    “Stand and be heard,” the Lord commanded. As the man stood he realized that although he could hear the voice, there was no physical sign of God around; just a throne, a throne that hundreds could sit on with ease.

    “Lord,” the man began, stammering slightly, “we have decided that we would like you to destroy our enemies for us. We have struggled for years against these ‘evil doers’, but can’t seem to make any real headway against them. We know that you, with your perfect knowledge, could eradicate in an instant what we have struggled against for years.” He seemed relieved to have been able to get all the words out without fainting.

    Through the veil that separated them, the Lord looked upon this tiny creature and tried to think of any of the good that had been done since he had sent Jesus to dwell with them. It seemed so long ago, and yet only yesterday.

    A loud rumbling began that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It became impossible for the man to remain standing, so he surrendered to the situation and fell to the floor again, marvelling at the gold and jewels.

    “Your request is ambiguous,” the voice of God called out. “Are you sure that you want me to ‘destroy your enemies’ for you?”

    The man was confused: what could be ambiguous about such a request. “Yes, Lord, that is our request.”

    The next moment, with a flash of light, the man was back in his office, as though nothing at all had happened. According to his clock only two minutes had passed, as though he had just closed his eyes to ponder something he was writing about. He decided it wasn’t something worth mentioning in his next meeting with the President of the United States.

    On His throne the Lord looked down upon the United States as a tear rolled down his cheek. “Fools”, he said, “many shall come, but not all shall be believers in what you brought them.”

    Logos, the Word of God, turned towards the throne and nodded in agreement, “but what choice have they left you, ‘for with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.’”

    The Lord could only bow his head as he began fulfilling his task. “This shall be the ultimate transubstantiation,” the Lord declared: “these arrogant fools shall be, in the blinking of an eye, transformed from living, breathing humans back into the dust of the earth from whence they came without having physically known death. The transformation shall be at the speed of light as our bodies are replaced with ‘bodies of light’ as their ultimate insanity finally exerts itself upon the earth and the weapons conceived to be used to defend them are, in turn, used to destroy their greatest enemy: themselves.”

    The Lord saw the fireball, smiled, and declared that it was good.

    Copyright © 2006 by the CrazyComposer
    (aka Peter Amsel) – for the story