Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy not birthday to you, happy not birthday to you, ...

Hey, what do you know? Jesus' pretend birthday is coming up again. This dude is really special. The chosen one. The Son of a Gun. You see he's the only bloke who gets to celebrate his birthday on the day he wasn't born! Now that must take a miracle to pull off.

Rewinding a bit, nine months before his real birthday (whenever that was and if ever that was), Jeebus was conceived. Big problem though. No human father. No semen. No fertilization. No chromosomes except mama's. But somehow a zygote appeared which then became an embryo which eventually grew into a fetus. Ergo, Jeebus ought to be the Ever Virgin's clone. Hence, he was a she, and she was a Dolly? On the other hand since the fable says it was Sky Daddy who got Mary pregnant then ... Whoa! We've got a god screwing around with a mortal! Then again, why act surprised? The Babylonian king Sargon (c. 2300 B.C.E.) was born of an ordinary woman and a mountain god. Zoroaster, the Persian prophet who lived in the 6th century B.C.E. was God-begotten and virgin born. Cuchulain, an Irish hero, was the son of the god Lugh and the human female Deichtne. Okuninushi of Japan was one of the numerous sons of the storm god Susanowo and by the mortal woman Kishinada. The Aztec hero Quetzlcoatl was born of the virgin Chimalman, to whom the god Onteotl had appeared in a dream. The Greek god Zeus impregnated such women as Danaƫ resulting in the birth of Perseus; while the union of the god Apollo and Aria created Miletus. So it happens all the time, ok? Obviously the other gods have had their fill of female flesh. It was the Semitic deity's turn. It was but fair, you know--equal opportunity, no to discrimination, and all that jazz.

We can keep pedaling back all the way to the Garden where slithering reptiles had neocortices (biologists and evolutionists take note!) and so had the faculty of human speech and where an omniscient creator had not an inkling, mind you, of what was to happen next in the script he himself wrote, but then you get the point. This Bronze Age, Dark Age whackology is ten orders of magnitude more ridiculous than the worst trash Hollywood churns out. Which makes you really worry that not a few buy it as nonfiction.

Monday, December 01, 2008

How to turn anyone into a killer

Last Friday shoppers who'd been waiting outside a Wal-Mart for hours burst into the store, tragically trampling to death one of its employees.

Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.


Some shoppers who had seen the stampede said they were shocked. One of them, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers behaved badly even as the store was being cleared, she recalled.

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

The Milgram experiment among others has shown us definitively that ordinary citizens can become torturers and killers if you just nudge them inch by inch, initially asking them to do something trivially bad then gradually making them do worse things. That's how young idealistic recruits into government become bad.

In this case had the wave of shoppers been waiting only a couple of minutes I think they would in fact have become good Samaritans rather than homicidal. In fact they wouldn't have stormed the store in the first place. They would've been civil. It's the pressure of having been in line for hours, almost a full day if we are to believe the quote above, and in the cold(?) that turned these people into savages, as Cribbs describes them. Samaritan or otherwise, when under pressure, under stress, we all move closer to the edge. That said, stress and pressure may be contributing causal factors but they are not excuses. These people are guilty of having killed a person.

Since Cribbs was an observer she might've been closer to the back of the line. You'd expect people who've waited less and were less motivated to come and shop early to be among the more sober ones. Those who came earliest were the most motivated, the most "fanatical", therefore, the most dangerous, the most "savage."

In the aftermath I wouldn't be surprised if some of those shoppers directly responsible will even denigrate the deceased. They might call him stupid for putting himself in harm's way. These shoppers like all of us consider themselves decent, law abiding citizens. The psychological dissonance of having been party to a homicide demands an immediate resolution. In order to regain consonance, to maintain their self-image of being a good person, it is most likely they will pass the buck and blame--to the victim, to Wal-Mart, to the police, to circumstances. Admission of personal culpability/responsibility would be too painful a blow to their self concept. Needless to say, admission may get them incarcerated.