Thursday, 26 June 2008

Why Travis Bickle is not a hero.

I should offer up a few caveats before launching into my heresy of trashing a cinematic God. Taxi Driver is fascinating. It deservedly ranks as one of the seventies finest films, deeply ambivalent, belying easy description. De Niro’s chilling capture of a lonely homicidal manic, Hermann’s jazzy, brooding in the dark score is laced both with sexual menace and forlorn romanticism. Scorsese’s direction is a masterpiece of showcasing male paranoia and rancour. And of course Schrader, the grand architect proved himself with the script. It is a film that does not easily leave the consciousness once imprinted on it.

However a mistake has been made or rather a collective confusion. The prevailing idea among the less discerning media and young males is that Travis is somehow a hero. A shining example of masculinity and a role model. How many boys have Bickle posters in their room? How many times is he seen as a icon of cool, straightforward violence? A regular, white guy standing alone against the degradations of a mixed race, sickeningly liberal world. For interest type in Travis Bickle into Amazon or “Travis Bickle hero” into Google or check out this weird site.

Film critics and commentators have pointed out the surrealism of this phenomenon, best perhaps is Ryan Gibley in his book It don’t Worry Me. In any case I will note here that this conception of Travis is hilariously mistaken. It would seem that our minds dislike ambiguity and dissonance. The construction of binary opposites frequently occur in our thinking. Taxi Driver in many ways demonstrates the poverty of using such black and white terminology. Travis can be pitied and you can hope he finds some kind of peace but that does not displace the criminal and psychopathic actions he commits. The power of film is that it can get you to identify and sympathise with people you don’t normally take to. Taxi Driver is one of the best and most hauntingly ambivalent in the genre of the unreliable narrator.

For a start the film is as Amy Taubin notes, soaked in manifest failure, male failure. American failure over Vietnam, Travis himself is a veteran. The sixties and seventies saw things like the second wave of Feminism, the cultural and sexual revolution along with its failure to transform society, pot smoking and LSD and a dogmatic critique of the “man” and capitalist white Anglo Saxon institutions. The white man was under assault from all sides, no one could be trusted. The narrative can be seen as one of perpetual failure, failure to woo Betsy, failure to connect with people, failure to kill Palatine. Most crushingly his failure to work out what it is to be a man and to be one. You have to ask then why is it, that this film is seen as a celebration of masculinity? The Sopranos, The Godfather and Scarface are although containing their own critique much closer to celebrations and do contain great moments but Taxi Driver?

The failure of religion is also implicated. It is seldom remarked, the apocalyptic, hell fire and brimstone vision in Taxi Driver. Paul Schrader who wrote the script emerged from a fundamentalist Calvinist upbringing. (This community Schrader explores in his film Hardcore) Schrader notes that Travis most likely came from his type of background where “people seldom speak to each other, and where its always cold” Scorsese’s ongoing paranoia on the other hand over his Catholicism comes close to comedy and is endlessly fascinating and entertaining. Schrader presents Travis as “God’s lonely man,” A po-faced Lot in Sodom, waiting for the apocalypse in a city where God and goodness has long left. Scorsese is more typically Catholic in his view. He recalls his own sensation of cruising places like Times Square breathing in the sinfulness as a young kid even when the priests told him not to and that such temptations would put his soul at risk. (This is of course the director who would go on to make The Last Temptation of Christ.)

This is classic Scorsese and it is also Travis. Scorsese notes that the reason Travis patrols his cab through these areas is that it both excites and enrages him, it stokes his puritanical fury. Scorsese’s films are in many ways the conflict between desire and dogma. Charlie, Scorsese’s alter ego in Mean Streets just wants to run with the pack, become a gangster, get smashed on the weekend and screw his epileptic girlfriend. But he fears both the social fury at his actions and biblical fury. A similar case can be made for Travis. Why is it that after a night of venting he will go to a porno and attempt to chat up the girl working the confectionary stand in the cinema? He is an outsider, when your alone, you hate everyone while paradoxically wanting love and friendship at the same time. The scene where he attempts to chat up the girl in the porno theatre is on paper hilarious but it’s played deadly serious. The thing about fanatics and the sexually vexed is that they don’t smile.

Travis is living in sin, in hell for which he will need some kind of purification. We should remember Charlie’s maxim in Mean Streets “you don’t make up for your sins in church you make up for them in the street” or this from Scorsese himself. “ I like the idea of spurting blood. It reminds me…..God, it reminds me…….. Its like a purification”. Consider the language of the film, what the main character frequently expresses, its best shown in this monologue.
“All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets”

“I think someone should just take this city and just... just flush it down the fuckin' toilet”

“Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk”

The failure of religion here is of course setting impossible demands which cannot be met, even to contemplate doing wrong is sinful and shaming. Ideas of how to love and how to live have been warped in his head. Travis no doubt worries over the Calvinist theology of who is saved and who is dammed attempting to work out which category has been ordained for him. His response to rejection by Betsy is almost like the Takfir denouncement that Islamists use on Muslims who disagree with them, “your just like the rest of them, your in a hell and you’ll die in hell like the rest of them”

Nearly twenty years before the events of Taxi Driver, a little known Islamic scholar called Sayyid Qutb from Egypt set sail to America, to New York specifically. He initially wonders should he be normal or special. Hold on to his beliefs or as he says “indulge those temptations all around me?” he had this to say of New York “here in this strange place, this huge workshop they call “the new world”, I feel as though my spirits, thoughts, and body live in loneliness” “what I need most is someone to talk to” Qutb’s relationship with women was also fraught, he was a lifelong virgin never finding a woman “pure” enough. He had this to say “a girl looks at you appearing as if she was an enchanting nymph or a mermaid, but as she approaches, you sense only the screaming instinct inside her, and you can smell her burning body, not the scent of perfume but flesh, only flesh. Tasty flesh truly but flesh nonetheless.”

Consider Travis’s rejoinder to this “women they are all the same like a union” Your probably wondering who the hell Qutb is? He is Osama Bin Laden’s favourite philosopher, the architect of Islamism and spiritual grandfather to Muhammad Atta the man who flew the second plane into the WTC building in New York on 2001. It is almost comical as Lawrence Wright remarks that this man “decent, proud, tormented and self-righteous whose lonely genius would unsettle Islam, threaten regimes across the world and beckon to a generation of young rootless Arabs who were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives and would find it in Jihad”. I’m mixing my monotheism’s here, Jihad is holy war in English, Scorsese in interviews from the seventies has described Travis as a commando for Christ. Qutb was a fearful man his abstract hatred of America fostered a sense that the US and the west was a land of carnal beasts, gays and primitive blacks, where women held power over men by the magical nature of their breasts. Even the prissy, temperate Greenly Colorado was beyond the pale for him. Multi cultural New York scared him and provoked rage, no doubt Qutb was smiling down from paradise on 9/11 just like the smirking Reverend Falwell who on TV after the carnage blamed 9/11 on American equality for women and gays.

Religion and sex seem to propel the narrative of Taxi Driver, Travis is surely a virgin. Incidentally one of the inspirations for the film was Arthur Bremer, who attempted to assassinate Governor George Wallace. Bremer like Travis and Qutb was a lonesome, virginal truant who painfully attempted to lose his virginity to a masseuse in New York. His diary entry for the day hems from self-disgust to misogyny, to pity to self pity. Killing for him was the only way to get “attention”.

If sex and religion make for very uneasy bedfellows then Religion and homosexuality is positively toxic. Taubin perceptively writes in her notes on Taxi Driver that the rivalry of Sport and Travis is not based simply on Travis’s subjective viewing of Sport as the jailer and pimp of Iris. That there is not only sexual jealously but homoerotic envy. For a man whose life is one of total disconnect with women, has as his nemesis’s a pimp, a seducer and controller of women is genius. Surely Travis envies Sport and on some level wants to be him with his free and easy ways, who is a hippie and a polygamist.

That’s not the only way this character’s macho bravado is undercut. Schrader himself has taken a hammer to it. He has expounded in numerous interviews the evolution of the Travis character. In American Gigolo which Schrader wrote and directed. Schrader openly talks about how the spiritual drift of the character in New York has become a gay playboy who is a professional male prostitute, servicing women. Schrader’s latest film The Walker has an openly gay main character who’s storyline is very similar to American Gigolo. Schrader notes that the character who started as a frustrated, angry young man in a cab has finally came out of the closet.

Travis is hardly looking a 17 year olds poster idol now. More interesting though is why is he is considered a hero anyway. In conventional narrative terms, he does not settle down with a women at the close, completing the oedipal trajectory. Though he combats gangsters and pimps at the final, he does so only because his attempt at assassinating a potential presidential candidate has failed. There is also no spiritual or psychological epiphany, Travis is still in his cab driving into oblivion.

The now rickety pillars holding up the ideal that Travis is some kind of hero and whose actions are to be socially celebrated is obliterated when we consider his real life counterparts. I have already noted Bremer, one of the chief inspirations for the film, he was a loner and a drifter. Then there is John Hinckley Jr a psychopath who became obsessed with the film and Jodie Foster, he got off with an insanity defence after attempting to kill President Reagan. These men along with someone like Charles Whitman have implanted the idea of mass murder and assassination in the American male psyche.

These men are the precursors to the notorious school shooters. Consider someone like Seung Hui Cho the Virginia Tech shooter who perpetrated the worst rampage in American history. Another loner who wanted to teach the “rich kids” and “charlatans” with their “debauchery” a lesson. It has been speculated that possibly it was his obsession with Emily Hilscher that sparked it. Consider unsmiling Atta the poster boy for the suicide bombers who like Qutb never came remotely close to romantic involvement with women and was a introverted outsider, he embraced a toxic fundamentalism and was a deep seated misogynist who in his will wrote, among other absurdities that women were not allowed to be at his funeral or that no pregnant women or other unclean people should touch his body. I am reminded of something critic David Thomson wrote, it was a story from Jean Renoir the beloved French film director. That in the 18th century a young man would go with his father to the local courtesan to “know” women. Renoir remarks that if something like that happened to someone like Hitler then we may never have had the death cult of Nazism.

Martin Amis in his essay, Terror and the dependant mind notes that it has been seriously suggested that these fanatical young men segregated from women are really after nothing more normal than a girlfriend or he caustically writes the simplest way of getting a drink. I’ll add my own corollary, they are after no more than a good time which fate has cruelly denied them, they have to kill themselves to get it. Amis goes on to say something similar to this-- Here in the west young men and women have the freedom to do what they want, drown copious amounts of alcohol, take mind altering drugs and dance away to ear shattering music and have sex with near total strangers. These distractions which tame the populace here are not available to the young men of Peshawar or Jeddah or Baghdad, nor are they available to men such as Travis or Seung Hui Cho or Pekka Eric Auvinen.

As American Airlines 2 smashed into the WTC what did Atta think? Did he say something like Travis, that he sees his life clearly now, that there was no other way. Did Atta look forward to the 72 virgins in paradise, a pleasure denied to him on this earthly plane? When Travis told Sport to “suck on it” a doubly reflexive sexual pun, did he welcome his suicidal, psychosexual violence as a reprieve from his temptations of the flesh? “Burning screaming, tasty flesh” as Qutb wrote.

“There is some bad ideas in my head” Travis says to the secret service agent. Indeed there is. The fear and intolerance that Taxi Driver exposes is in the final analysis pointless and self defeating. This rancidness is so corrosive, so self hating and pitying that it nearly always immolates the possessor of it. Amis writes in his much abused collection of essays on 9/11, The Second Plane, that sexual tension is eased not by religious rage but by sexual love. This obvious remark coined in the review to Ed Husain’s book An Islamist's Journey. Husain remarked that when he was a Islamic radical he peered into the face of his future wife Faye, he saw something that rarely occurred on his face anymore, a smile.

We go to the movies to dream. That sounds archaic now and old fashioned. Dreaming though is still important, how many times do we idolise the men and women up on the screen, secretly want to be them, to be their friends or to fuck them. We recognise though the dream aspect, in the end we come out of it, grow up or rather grow into ourselves.

Its foolish to say that films and computer games cause violence, violence and aggression are endemic to the human condition but we should recognise though the danger of bad ideas. Bad ideas, ideologies, secular dogmas or religions that have a nasty habit of spreading from mind to mind. Though naïve hero-worshipping of somebody like Travis Bickle is perhaps largely harmless, we should be attuned to the problem of the baggage that comes with it. Fear, lionising of violence, self imposed loneliness, and intolerance of difference. You may think I am protesting too much here over a film. Though I have attempted to connect this film with larger concerns.

Taxi Driver exposes many of the contradictions and schisms that exist within the male mind. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” As Shakespeare wrote, there is two more brothers to add to the band. Yukio Mishima and his creation Isao. I confess a paranoid analogy. Schrader is a fan of Mishima who transported several of the Japanese writers ideas into his own work, not least suicidal ideation and the idea of righteous male violence, Schrader would go on to make a film of the writers life, Mishima a life in four Chapters.

Mishima is a fascinating, contradictory character, a brilliant novelist, a dreamer, an intellectual, a samurai and a obsessive bodybuilder who staged a bizarre coup which ended in his own ritual suicide when the attempt to spark a nationalist uprising in his county failed, despite Mishima’s macho posing he was an open bisexual. His great novel, Runaway Horses tells the story of Isao, a young nationalist radical who along with his friends plan an attack on the county with chilling similarities to 9/11. Isao is conflicted by the love of an older women though and the temptations to debase himself and give up his plan for suicidal violence. The resolution is breathtaking, when I read it as a teenager I marvelled at the relevancy and laser insight the writing possessed. Not only was this an oriental writer, working decades ago in a very different culture and yet this was something so salient to the contemporary scene.

There is a kernel of darkness that lurks in every man’s heart, the bondage of which is lessened through education and reflection, through love and compassion. Remember Scorsese’s views on blood and violence being akin to some kind of purification, upon reflection this idea seems juvenile and reckless. That’s too harsh maybe but it shows that even the bright and talented can have some very implausible ideas. I will leave the last word to the creator Paul Schrader who stated in his 30th anniversary DVD commentary that “Travis is not cured by the movies end” and “he will not be a hero next time”

Michael Faulkner.


Taxi Driver, Amy Taubin

Martin Amis, The Second Plane.

The Looming Tower Al Qaeda’s road to 9/11. Lawrence Wright

It Don’t Worry Me. Ryan Gibley.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Unholy Trinity, Bush, Blair and Bin Laden.

A new meme to spread, why not connect the well known dislike and apathy for Bush, Blair and Bin Laden to Religion. Rubbishing the idea that religion makes people good or behave exemplary.

How many times do atheists and secularists hear arguments from the religious, that religion is a force for good? Too many you could say or maybe not. The argument crops up in many variations and adapts and grows more subtle with time. Here is a few examples of it descending from the barnstormingly assertive to the meek and mawkish

Anyone who is not (insert personal superstition) is immoral and going to hell.

Atheists are immoral, just look at Stalin.

Without God people do evil things just look at Stalin (Yawn)

You need to believe something (superstitious) to be good.

Many Religious people have accomplished great moral feats over the centuries.

A good deal of Religious people do a good deal of good. (and Sir your implication is?)

Religion is no longer intellectually respectable, people, even some non-believers have admiration and respect for the idea that it can be a force for good. Perhaps we should put this proposition to the test?

Consider the three most influential men of this decade who also happen to be the most hated. Bush, Blair and Bin Laden. In the West and in the Middle East they (the Westerners) are despised to an almost universal degree. Now I am not necessarily equating the three like a monster with three heads though that would make a good anti religious poster come to think. We should reflect on the similarities between them.

Take Bush and Bin Laden for starters. Both sons of wealthy fathers who made their fortune via oil. Little by way of success was expected from both of them. They grew up in sun drenched desert lands both geographically and spiritually. Both adhere along with Blair to a set of mutually competing magic books which have propelled hundreds of thousands of men and women to their deaths.

Let me quantify this. According to the Lancet 655,000 Iraqi deaths were attributed to the war and that was in July 2006. 4,587 total American deaths have been reported in Iraq as of this minute. And lest we forget the 2,974 in the terror attack of 9/11. Now ask ourselves how many more people will die as this war on “terror” continues?

Did ideas of loving ones neighbour and turning the other cheek stop Bush a member of the United Methodist Church from charging in to Iraq like a character in the Wild Bunch yelling “we’re gonna smoke em out”. I guess “charging” in is not a fair description of his actions, a ex drunk, draft dodger, no he got gullible men and women to fight his war for him. He may be from West Texas but he most certainly is not in a Western.

Is Blair any better? Do Catholics beam with pride now Blair is counted among them? I guess adding a war criminal to the already shoddy and sordid history of Roman Catholicism does not make too many eyelids bat. This is the man who’s mental suffering over going to war in Iraq apparently kept him up at night, I wonder does the threat of hell and celestial retribution keep him up at night as well? Can Blair’s Faith Foundation be described as anything more charitable than a wank?

Bin Laden is obviously the man we should despise the most. Recently I considered having his face on a poster in my workspace to remind me daily of everything I hate, Religious dogmatism, fanaticism, medieval intolerance, an anti freedom, AK47 toting polygamist and paedophile who self consciously mirrors himself on the Prophet Muhammad with the AK replacing the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other.

So next time someone throws down some tripe about Religion doing good as if it’s a QED that God exists tell them that the three most influential men this century believe in things like Virgin births, resurrections and winged horses who have propelled us into a near global conflagration of which seems likely to be carried on for decades to come. To which many more deaths will accrue.


Michael Faulkner.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Goodbye to Bush.

I can remember as a early adolescent, playing football watching with friends a large, blue painted airplane cruising overhead. The plane we thought was Air Force One with the President Bill Clinton. It could have been him though I doubt it. The atmosphere at the time from watching the news was positive and upbeat. The second return of that now former President years later was triumphal, he was greeted like a long lost son, a man who “brought” peace to the land. Indeed on UTV there was a clip of a very young boy proclaiming that Clinton had brought peace to the world. Never mind that “bringing” peace to these lands would be enough of a superlative.

I suspect that there will be no six year olds on TV tonight saying anything of the sort of George Bush. An ex drunk from Texas, the pariah of the family who ended up hitting Jesus instead of the bottle and became the forty third President of the United States. He was slyly and icily lampooned in John Sayles Silver City (2004) and he has become comic cannon fodder no doubt keeping those irritating impersonators on the BBC in employment.

If a person is to be judged by the state of affairs they leave something in, then Bush must surely come in as one of the worst Presidents in United States history. There is much that can be railed against his handling of the Environment, Economy, The widening gap between the rich and poor. The Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay. His full scale injection of religious dogmatism into domestic and foreign policy.

The worst damage is the easiest to see. Leaving the debacle of Iraq aside for a minute, the hatred of America much of it irrational and abstract is now more widespread and vociferous. This is as I have said despite the deaths on the war on terror the most lamentable effect of the Bush Presidency

The war on terror is a misnomer. An empty phrase used by politicians and fearful media. It cannot be called a war because war’s end and terrorism in whatever form cannot be stopped. Although we should resist painting the conflict we are now in as sweeping monolithic forces lining up against each other. There is every reason to accept that we are now in as Samuel Huntington’s book denotes a clash of civilisations. It is not a war over land or resources fought with guns and bombs. It is a battle over hearts and minds, beliefs or lack of them. It’s clash is largely in the public arena, politics, media, schools. Over issues such as human rights, liberty and culture. We were right though to invade Afghanistan, smash Al Qaeda and depose the Taliban. Nearly everything else we have done though has been mistaken and gravely so. It does not help that Bush, a product of the American bible belt paints this battle as some kind of religious crusade. There is something chillingly similar in two of the most seminal men in the 21st century. Both men are sons of fathers who made millions via oil, Both grew up in searing hot lands- Texas and Arabia. Both are unfailingly religious who’s certainties over mutually competing magic books have sent hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths. American innocence’s was not the only thing that was brought down in the 9/11 attacks but ideas of religious toleration and respect for faith.

There is now an new generation of Muslim men motivated to hate the west. Whereas before much of it was symbolic and abstract the daily images of carnages in Iraq will imprint on the minds of many Muslims that the west is evil and must be destroyed. In America and Europe liberal relativists have now fully imbibed the dogma that Islamic terrorism is a product of the capitalist imperialist west. Along with the dogma that America started it to begin with. Perceptions of our moral superiority to the likes of the Bin Laden, the Khomeini's and the Ahmadinejad’s has been eroded through the actions of the Bush Administration. Iraq has left America militarily weak to deal with the real enemy in the Middle East, Iran. To contemplate another invasion in another Muslim country or to let a self confessed anti Semite build bombs to wipe Israel off the map, is an awful stark choice. Confrontation with Iran may be necessary to ensure a full scale eruption of a nuclear holocaust is prevented. The effects though would be that the violent and possibly worldwide response from Muslims will linger for generations. Likewise many on the left do not have the stomach to stand up in their own country for things like free speech, a free press and human rights never mind support a pre-emptive strike on Iran to ward off an attack on Israel no less.

Hopefully the next president can take a cooler, less knee jerked more reasoned response to Islamic terrorism and the Middle East. A building up of relations again with Europe, ending human rights abuses such Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition. As Martin Amis rightly stated it is not what terrorism does but what it provokes in response to it. America has panicked and lost its way. Even if Mcain wins I doubt even he will act as cravenly as Bush does, whatever else can be said I think we will all breathe easier when we wave goodbye to Bush.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The predictability of stupidity. Religion, homosexuals, Iris Robinson and Dicrocoelium dendriticum

Last Saturday I glanced the The Sun headline over Iris Robinson embroiled in a gay row. Now I knew that Robinson is 1. DUP. 2.Most DUP are born again fundamentalists. 3. Have a history of making stupid remarks usually because of Religion. (Either that or Robinson was caught with her snout deep in a womans vagina.) So by that deductive logic and by knowing what the Good book actually says I predicted that Robinson would say in no order things like “Cure” “love the sinner hate the sin” “Abomination”.
I read the article later that day in my local gym (not that I go there to read newspapers) and to Jack’s complete lack of surprise there it was on the front page of The Sun and subsequent pages. Here was the First Minster’s wife of a 21st century democracy with her own mandate over health saying things (the above phrases I mentioned) now any reasoned and thoughtful person from this country would be wanting to put a paper bag over their heads and go off into a corner.
Here is the row right here.

I decided to write to my local newspaper, The Newtownards Chronicle as well as The Belfast Telegraph and The Sun. (my letter is below)My interest in the row deepened though for the Chronicle an even handed paper who reports on controversial issue did not report on her remarks at all. Now consider that this was national news story and was reported in the rest of the UK. The best the paper did was report a mildly critical letter (the only mention at all of the scandal) from Terry Jackson not only a Christian who endorses her views but a DUP acolyte!. So I wrote another letter to the paper complaining over its brushing under the carpet what is clearly hate speech. I also intend to write to the equality commission and email Robinson herself with ten questions.

Dear Mrs Robinson I was wondering if you could take time out of your busy schedule to answer just 10 questions I have been thinking about. I will also be sending these questions to the Belfast Telegraph as well as The Sun newspapers. I would very much look forward to your response to these questions and if you were able to answer them in public.

1. Indeed the Bible both Old Testament and New Testament views Homosexuality as sinful and deserving of death. However the bible also expects Christians to keep slaves and for slaves to serve their masters well. Are you in favour of keeping slaves if not why? And by what criteria do you discern passages in the bible then? For the passages please see Ephesians 6:5 or 1 Timothy 6:1-4.
2. Do you consider Roman Catholics as real Christians? Or rather more bluntly do you believe that they will spend eternity in hell if they don’t become born again like you?
3. Do you believe homosexuality is a mental illness or disease?
4. You say Homosexuality can be cured (this implies it’s a illness) what clinical evidence is there for this?
5. Why is it do you think you have been denounced by leading psychologists and by medical councils that your views are unscientific and without clinical support?
6. You talk of love the sinner hate the sin. What is sin, can we see it? Touch it? Put it under a microscope? Is it indivisible from matter? Is it invisible, intangible? What is the difference between saying what you say and saying something like “Jonny is possessed by demons we hate the demons but love Jonny?” More concretely what is the difference from what you say and saying “we hate the rapist in Jonny but we love Jonny the person?”
7. As you are responsible for health in this country do you think that homosexuals should be treated fully and professionally by the NHS if they contact HIV?
8. Do you believe the world is no older than around six to eight thousand years old?
9.As health Minster do you affirm the danger of something like MRSA as it acquires its lethality from evolutionary forces?
10. In a TV interview you stated that people were not arguing with you but with the word of God. Do you believe then as it is wrote in Deuteronomy that non-believers or heretics should be killed?
Michael Faulkner.

By the way Dicrocoelium dendriticum is a parasite that takes over the minds of ants forcing them to climb atop blades of grass. Why? So that the ant can be eaten by a sheep. The parasite needs to get into the stomach of the sheep before it can reproduce. Unbelievable is it not that it actually takes over its mind forcing it to do something that’s not in its interest, that’s positively suicidal? It’s a rather cute analogy don’t you think? Its not mine though it belongs to Daniel Dennett. The idea of the mind hijacked by powerful dangerous beliefs, Religion as a mind virus? Forcing people to believe and behave in ways that are against its own interest. Just after reading Robinson’s comments this was the image that descended on me. For a reasonably well educated, competent adult to spout nonsense and such offensive nonsense it usually take something like religion. Robinsons remarks whether it be on gays, the age of the universe or the belief in certain magical book is not the result of careful research or a logical reasoning process but the imbibing wholesale of bronze age dogma. When you next see Iris Robinson think of the poor ant taken over by the parasite Dicrocoelium dendriticum, but as the title suggests never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.

Here is my intial set of letters.

Dear Editor

I am disappointed in this newspapers coverage of MP and MLA Iris Robinson recent remarks over Homosexuality or rather no coverage at all. For an issue which has been in the public realm for nearly a week now with good coverage in the BBC, Belfast Telegraph and The Sun I find it strange then that this Newspaper which can be open and frank in reporting other serious public interest issues be so closeted with this scandal. Can we really believe the best this paper can do on this issue is print a letter from another Christian (Terry Jackson an acolyte of the DUP no less) who although criticises her frankness fully supports her sentiments ( Terry Jackson letters to the editor) I can understand the reason my own letter was not printed not just because it is a strongly worded attack on this country’s religious sensibilities but because I failed to provide my address (I was told this was a requirement.) This is an ongoing issue, I hope to see next week some highlighting of this issue and some condemnation of her hate speech. I cannot seriously believe I’m the only person in this area who finds her remarks stupid and offensive?

I have provided my original letter for your re-consideration.
Dear Editor.
We should not be surprised at Iris Robinson’s comments over the nature and ethical status of homosexuality. When I glanced the headline of The Sun Newspaper on Saturday 7/06, I could’ve wrote the script. Old Testament scripture abound in hatred of homosexuality see Leviticus, Deuteronomy and 1 Kings. The New Testament does not repudiate these vile doctrines. Romans 1, states it is worthy of death. Timothy 1:10 and 1. Corinthians 6.9. See this as abominable. Her comments will have raised few eyebrows among the pious majority in this country, though her remarks made the front page of The Sun, little in way of consequences will follow from it.
Imagine what would happen if she asserted other theologically justified claims. That Christians should keep slaves is spelled out in both OT and NT, Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:7-11 over the fatherly selling of ones daughter into sexual slavery. Ephesians 6:5 or 1 Timothy 6:1-4 slaves should serve their masters well, Christian masters especially so. The Justification for black slavery via the curse of Noah on Ham’s son Canaan, which millions of Mormons subscribed to until the church was forced to abandon it. Or that nonbelivers should be killed, Deuteronomy 13:6, 8-15. Jesus himself is po faced on the matter John 15.6 where nonbelivers are “cast forth as branch’s and withers--thrown into the fire and burned”. Imagine the outcry if she had claimed that Catholics are fake Christians or that Islam is the work of Satan. Comments such as these would not be tolerated in other secular countries made by people of similar position. In fact her comments are most likely welcome given the beliefs of her constituents.

This is one of the most pious countries in Europe, astonishing given the divisive nature of Religion in this nation’s geopolitics. Many of the DUP are actually creationists. They along with Catholic Nationalists have continually opposed abortion in this country. Her remarks demonstrate this is clearly bronze age dogma retarding the ethical progress of a 21st century western democracy. It can rightly be described in the sentence author Sam Harris uses as a intellectual and moral emergency.
What is needed is a building up of robust secular ethics, teaching children to think for themselves not what their parents think. The ending of faith schooling and attaching religious labels to young children. The ending of faith itself is required if we are to live together without enmity. That Iris Robinsons comments have no basis in reality (she has been denounced by leading psychologists,- there is no scientific evidence to support her assertions) serves reminder of the way the religious are divorced from making claims that are supported by evidence. As Health spokeswoman, I presume she disbelieves in the danger of something like MRSA because it acquires it’s lethality from evolutionary forces. Iris Robinson should offer a full public apology or resign. Either way she should using a barb from my old tutor “take herself off by the hand”
Michael Faulkner.

Why I am a Feminist part 2.

I never thought I would start this blog by proclaiming myself a Feminist. Let me qualify this pronouncement. I would describe myself as a Equity Feminist. Which is to say I fully support the same legal and civil rights for women under any circumstances without any provisos. I am not however a Gender Feminist with whom I would have a serious quarrel with.
I write this because the other day I discovered a blog which although not explicitly stated that a woman a self described feminist and by the look and sound of it a gender feminist is bringing her young son up with some very bad ideas.
Humans are not a blank slates. Children are not asexual. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that men and women’s mind are wired differently. That they can think and feel differently to each other. That they are endowed with behaviour traits. Although the mother was primarily annoyed with men and women telling her son not to cry or play with girls toys-(which is perfectly acceptable) I attacked the underlying and false assumption that masculine and feminine behaviours is purely socialised. My posts were blocked although one did get through. To my surprise though the blog actually states that it blocks users who do not proclaim themselves either mothers or feminists. Well I don’t have a uterus but I can do the latter. Sounds a little gynecentric to me don’t you think? I posted another blog saying we don’t need to lie to ourselves to bring up our children while teaching them right from wrong or filling their heads was nonsense.
I wonder with my pronouncement will she let me post away?
Here is the link.

I have posted this to her as it has to go through the writers approval before being posted.

Hello again, I don’t want to sound like a troll. I have started my own blog and have wrote about your blog on it, on my blog I have declared myself a Feminist. So am I now able to post on your blog? Or because I have penis am I somehow excluded?"

Why I am a Feminist part 1.

Check this article out from the New York Times called women in charge, women who charge by Judith Warner. (you may need to sign up for the site buts its free and worth it)
Very good article, especially the link to the You Tube vid which catalogues every stupid and openly offensive remark made against Hilary Clinton. Whatever your political views on the woman I think you will find this is pretty jaw dropping stuff even if most of the misogyny is from knuckle dragging Murdock owning Fox news. At the very least it shows us how mainstream America has still got a long way to go in abandoning its sexist views on women in public life.

And the vid

First Post!

Hello There!

A little about me.

My name is Michael Faulkner and I am from Northern Ireland, I’m 21 one day from being 22. Yes I was born on Friday the 13th! My interests included reading, writing, fitness, PS3 and music. I seem attracted to controversy hence the title of the blog. I’ll blog on a number of titles in the future that generally get people foaming at the mouth.