The Social Currency of Victimhood

 

Much has been made in recent months of the so-called “generation snowflake”. This is hardly surprising given the disproportionate role of millennials in re-shaping social and political norms in frankly sinister ways; the destruction of free expression and open conversation on university campuses; the championing of censorship, the anti-science impulses that run through gender-identity movements; and the segregationist attitude to identity in general. To be clear from the outset, I am always against the demonization of people just for the membership of a generation or age-group – I always found the stereotyping of Generation X as feckless and nihilistic or Generation X’s own loathing of baby-boomers distasteful. I was disgusted by the hatred directed at the elderly following the Brexit vote and I recognise that there are many millennials who are extremely frustrated by the attitudes of their peers. Be that as it may, generation snowflake, as a description of an attitudinal subset of millennials, is somewhat apt and warrants further analysis. Read More…

The Islamic State and the Fragility of Culture

Amid the hysteria and tumult of the Trump inauguration, some of you may have missed the latest event in the Islamic State’s far too enduring campaign of wanton destruction against everything that makes human culture a worthwhile project (author’s note: I will henceforth refer to them by their appropriate name of Islamic State rather than pervert the name of a beautiful ancient Egyptian goddess). Having retaken the territory after an earlier desecration in 2015, IS destroyed the Tetrapylon structure at the site of the Roman theatre of Palmyra in Syria, one of the most beautiful structures of classical antiquity. It seems they were intent on finishing what they started in 2015 when they tore through Palmyra in a frenzy of destruction, levelling the 2000-year-old Temple of Bel and many other historical artefacts. A spray-painted scrawl of Jihadist graffiti can be seen peppering the rubble, laying desecration on demolition. Read More…

The Strange, Calming Beauty Of Wrack And Ruin

While browsing the newspaper’s photography section yesterday, I found myself drawn to a series of images of a recently discovered and almost perfectly preserved Second World War Kittyhawk fighter plane that had crashed in the Sahara desert. It invoked a feeling in me I often get when looking at derelict or abandoned places and objects, and that I have often found difficult to explain. It reminded me of the feeling I had when reading Alain de Botton’s description of his exploration of an aeroplane graveyard in the Californian desert (something that has earned a place on my ‘to do’ list); there is a unique stillness to such places that is hard to replicate. The meeting point of the eerie and soothing has a very special quality and I am not the only person to notice this.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Free Thinker

First published by Robin Gilbert-Jones in 2012, this profile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the first installment in a new series by Imagine Athena on the great “Free Thinkers” of our time. We’ll also be looking at Bertrand Russell, George Orwell, and many more. 

A child of the Darod clan, born in a Mogadishu hospital, her mother thought her an unremarkable and slow-witted child and her father, though he loved her, had expectations of her that went little further than obedience and submission. Defying their expectations Ayaan Hirsi Ali was to lead, by any measure, an extraordinary life. This life is all the more extraordinary when you consider that, by her own estimation, she may even be the only child born in that ward, on that day, who is still alive. Read More…

What it means to be a Freethinker

After a period in the sun, during the heyday of the Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (among others) New Atheist uprising, terms like freethinker, sceptic and the more specific atheist seem to have lost their popular allure. This is understandable among their obvious targets, the religious and superstitious, among whom they were unlikely to find a fan-base in the first place but, peculiarly, those to whom such terms (either in actuality or in potentia) could be applied have often sought to distance themselves from being associated with them.

In the early days of this website I spent many happy pages dismantling the superficially simpering but ultimately sinister certainties of the religious, yet over the years I have had to turn my spotlight increasingly to the ideological myths and superstitions of academia and journalism. These fields have become increasingly tainted by a commitment to narrative over truth, to a priori framing, rather than reasoned conclusions subject to revision on the basis of new evidence – i.e. the central scientific criticism of religion. Read More…

The Roots of the Pagan Tree

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From the archives…

Over the last half-millennium the great European empires spread out to the New World, the Antipodes and the old kingdoms of South and South-East Asia.

Hernán Cortés led the Spanish into what is now modern-day Central America and sacked the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan where Mexico City now stands, and Francisco Pizarro conquered the ancient Incan civilisation to the South. Later, starting out essentially as privateers preying on Spanish and Portuguese shipping, the English became adept at ship design and Francis Drake circumnavigated the earth, returning with a King’s ransom-worth of Iberian gold. Gradually realising their potential they extended south into Africa along with the Dutch, also masters of seamanship, who plied their trade in ship building and commerce and banking in conquered territories across Asia. While all this expansion and conquest had obvious economic and territorial goals, the warrant was always the same: the extension of Christendom. Read More…

Why Have Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali Been Smeared As Extremists?

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If a case study were needed to showcase the rot in the modern left’s moral compass, the deterioration of the Southern Poverty Law Centre into a megaphone for regressive shills and fascist extremists provides such an instructive example.

As many will know from the mercifully vocal backlash, the SPLC recently published a “Field Guide to anti-Muslim Extremists” which included, among others, Muslim reformer and anti-extremist activist, Maajid Nawaz. This is not the first time I have had to defend Nawaz in print against the degradations of deformed self-righteous leftism, so I shan’t repeat myself at too much length as to his history and importance as a voice of reason in this most divisive issue of religious extremism. Suffice it to say that an organisation that once stood firm against the scourge of racism in the American South, now sees fit to smear as an “anti-Muslim extremist”, an anti-extremism activist who publically defends democratic, secular and liberal values at great cost to his own personal safety from both Jihadi fascists and white racist thugs (with whom he has a history of violent run-ins since childhood). The snake is no longer eating itself, it has concluded its meal, vanished down its own oesophagus and is now moving onto the cheese and brandy course. Read More…

The Tall Poppy’s Lament: In Defence of Elon Musk

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I recently watched the unveiling of Elon Musk’s planned mission and, eventually, colonisation of Mars with a kind of rapturous childlike awe. I admit, it’s a personal interest of mine and I share Elon’s (very obvious) conviction that the only way to ensure the long-term survival of the human species and therefore intelligent life and consciousness (as far as we’ve discovered it), is for the human race to become a multi-planetary species. It remains to be seen how practical SpaceX’s plan and timeline are, but it was a fascinating presentation and they appear to have innovative solutions for many of the commonly cited challenges of such a mission. Read More…

“Cultural Appropriation” Is Developing Into A Dangerous Trajectory For Society

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It is reassuring to see that open critiques of various entries in the social justice Newspeak dictionary are now more commonplace. The first of these to really get my hackles up was the concept of the “safe space” which I covered in an earlier article, though South Park did a better job of ridiculing this infantile notion than I ever could.  Unfortunately, as well as being more frequently critiqued, this new pseudo-lexicon is also becoming more widely used (and even accepted as gospel), both among the censorious twits that invented it and the well-meaning and easily misled – I was disappointed to see that George Takei, who I am fond of, despite his occasional Panglossian naivety, shared an article defending “Trigger Warnings” by way of some fatuous reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (as if every blue-haired student activist is teetering on a psychological precipice akin to an Iraq war veteran). Read More…

Why We Fight The Good Fight

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In a recent podcast, philosopher, neuroscientist and vocal critic of religious extremism, Sam Harris, made the following comment:

“At this point I view most of my career as a massive opportunity cost. Most of what I spend my time talking about I do not find intellectually interesting, but I do find politically and morally necessary – how is it that I am living a life where I even have to know what honour killing means let alone spend time talking about it?”

This statement gave me pause for thought in regard to my own work. Of course I can’t claim anywhere near the readership, reach or back-catalogue Harris has to his name, nor can I (at least at this point) count my writing as a “career” so much as a passionate side-line. That being the case, I began thinking about how our focus at Imagine Athena, as well as my own, has shifted, or at least superficially appeared to do so, in recent years. From its inception, this website has been a platform to celebrate what makes life most worth living to us: the examined life, freedom of thought and expression, the values of the Enlightenment, human progress and virtue, the nebulous boundaries of art, science, philosophy, the numinous and transcendent (the only kind of “intersectionalism” that interests me). These concepts are at the core of everything we do. Read More…