Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perception - Emotion - Reason

Here is the way my brain is organized (and yours, and everyone else's on the planet since people first appeared): perception--emotion--reason. Know what that means? Perception goes through the more primitive emotional part of the brain first, to the more advanced rational part of the brain last. People always respond emotionally first, even the most egghead of "rational" intellectuals.

Those who control perception, control people. Perception is everything. I should really say they control "the masses" or the "herd," because people individually can't really be controlled all that well, although they can be pressured by the herd. But when you use propaganda techniques against the masses, baby, you've got a propagandist's dream come true.

People should always understand how propaganda techniques work. They'd be shocked at how well they work. I'm not talking about getting them to buy certain products, but to march off to war on the flimsiest of pretexts. No wonder the herd is called "the sheeple."

One man everyone should know is Edward L. Bernays, the American disciple and nephew of Sigmund Freud. He was for all practical purposes the founder of modern propaganda techniques.

Bernays despised most people and regarded them as his inferiors, especially because of intellectual or social claims. (See how it works? I just appealed to your emotions, and convinced you Bernays was attacking you. You fell for it, right?)

Bernays not only pretty much founded modern propaganda techniques, but was also the father of modern PR. Although, you could say they are same thing, and that there's really no difference between them.

In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays wrote, "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…"

Remember that quote. Burn it into your memory. Bernays thought people should be ruled by an extremely small elite, who should manipulate them through propaganda. That means you. People who believe in the wonders of government, and that it is their friend, should think twice about it.

In another book, In Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays wrote how governments and advertisers can "regiment the mind like the military regiments the body." This can be imposed, he said, because of "the natural inherent flexibility of individual human nature," and suggested the "average citizen is the world's most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own 'logic-proof compartments,' his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction."

Bernays also thought "physical loneliness is a real terror to the gregarious animal, and that association with the herd causes a feeling of security. In man this fear of loneliness creates a desire for identification with the herd in matters of opinion."

Bernays claimed that "the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word…In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles in mass psychology." What Bernays called the "regimentation of the mind" is accomplished by taking advantage of the human tendency to self-deception [logic-proof compartments], gregariousness [the herd instinct], individualism [exalting their vanity] and the seductive power of a strong leader.

Good Lord, he's talking about the Borg, the scariest villains ever, the ultimate collectivists, Commies in a Cube! About group Borgification, the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his seminal book, Leftism Revisited, wrote that people have "a herd instinct, a strong feeling of community that regards another group with hostility." He believed it "tend[ed] to efface self, tend towards an 'usness' in which the ego becomes submerged."

I think he would call the Borg a "terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity." If you don't want to use the word "Borg," just use "Mass Man," "the herd," or "the sheeple." They all mean the same thing.

Bernay also expressed the opinion people "have to take sides...[they] must step out of the audience onto the stage and wrestle as the hero for the victory of good over evil." This means appealing to our narcissism, our inborn tendency to see everything as either good or bad, with little or nothing in-between.

He also noted the need for people to feel as if they belong to something larger than themselves. This also means appealing to our narcissism; it's why nearly every tribe in history -- and nations are just tribes writ large -- has called itself "the People" or "the Humans." Or "the Motherland" or "the Fatherland" or "the greatest nation on earth."

When people consider themselves as part of the Humans (by whatever name they call themselves), they exalt themselves. And, of course (and ominously) those outside the tribe are non-people. Although today we call them "collateral damage."

"Mental habits create stereotypes just as physical habits create certain definite reflex actionism," Bernays wrote. "...these stereotypes or clichés are not necessarily truthful pictures of what they are supposed to portray." Perception is everything, the truth matters little or not at all.

Now, let's boil all this down and see what we have:

Mass Man, the herd, cannot think, and is instead ruled by its feelings. The herd will look to a leader to save it. The best way to accomplish this is for the herd to feel it is under attack. The herd will draw together, expell those who see the truth and protest, and then march off to war.

Nazi leader Hermann Goering had this to say about the masses: "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Tell the herd they are the Humans, or the People, or best of all, have God on their side. Paint their enemies as insane and evil. Again, this is appealing to people's narcissism, the tendency to see everything as either good (us) or evil (them). Evoke paranoia and hysteria in them by convincing them the insane evil ones want to conquer and destroy them. What will happen? You can get them to march off to war by the millions, just as Goering noticed. The truth doesn't matter, only the manipulation of perception.

Americans have been manipulated through propaganda into marching off to war. Bush's handlers had him say, "They hate us for our goodness," and it was "evil ones" who attacked us. Keep it simple; make it into a contest between good and bad, with nothing in-between. We were told "the evil ones" were insane, and were going to fly drones of death across the Atlantic, or detonate nuclear weapons in the U.S., or feed us feet first into a woodchipper. People responded just as Bernays -- and Goering -- suggested. They went group-hysterical and overwhelmingly supported the wars. Protestors were branded as traitors.

If it's done right, you can get people to give up their freedom. This has been noticed for a long time. In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." The author was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority," to that one leader who they believe will save them and take care of them, as if they are children and not adults. The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."

The mechanism of propaganda is available in many books. People should take a look at them. By bringing the techniques to light, people can immunize themselves against them.

Perception--Emotion--Reason. It's altogether too simple, and too easy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Most Powerful and Awful Spell of All

Psst. C'mere. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Want to know the most powerful and awful spell of all, one that can be used to send millions of people to war like sheep going over a cliff? Oh, you do? Okay, here it is:

"All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

What? you ask. That's it? That's all there is to it? Yep, that's it. Those 27 words, that short spell is really all you need to know to know to start paroxyms of war.

That spell is from Herman Goering, Nazi Minister of Propaganda. If you want to know that whole quote, here's what he said:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Why do I call what he said a spell? That word, "spell," literally means "to talk," or "tale." I certainly don't believe in toe of dog, wing of bat, or Love Potion Number Nine for that matter, but it's not even debatable that spells exist. People can be enchanted, or better yet, ensorcelled, if they are susceptible to it, by mere words. The point is moot.

If you don't believe me, all you have to do is watch Triumph of the Will, and you'll see how Hitler, one of the most hypnotic speakers ever, walked through a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who parted before him like the Red Sea when Charleton Heston waved his staff. He had literally ensorcelled those poor, deluded and willing fools. He had cast a spell on them, and this was in the 20th Century.

You want to know how to make people susceptible to falling for the Goering spell? You tell them they are the Good Guys, ones being attacked by slavering evil homicidal maniacs who, like the Terminator, will not stop in their attempts to wipe the Good Guys off the face of the earth. Those defined as the enemy also must always be defined as evil. That's worth repeating: they must be defined as evil. Not mistaken, not deluded, but mad-dog drooling crazy evil.

If you want to see something illuminating, just look at any fairy tale in which the village is under attack by a fire-breathing dragon. What always happens? The villagers band together to fight the dragon. If anyone was to say, "Hey, it's not a real dragon, just a paper mache' one," he'd be attacked as deluded, crazy, or traitorous. "Hey, what's wrong with you? Are you on the side of the dragon? If you don't like it here, why don't you leave the village, huh?"

People's response to this particular spell is so predictable I consider it a law of human nature. In some ways the whole thing is just too darn funny. It's also a heart-wrenching tragedy, but then, that which is a tragedy in real life is quite often funny in your imagination. Chang and Eng, that's the relationship between humor and horror. The Three Stooges are funny on the screen, but who would want to deal with their catastrophes in life? Not me.

Call me afflicted with a terminal case of daffiness, but I see no evidence the people on this big round world of ours are any different than those of, say, 10,000 BC, pace our SUVS and cellphones. We do all of the same Sodom-and-Gomorrah badness, only intensified through the Cooper's Law of high technology, and not an iota more of the same goodness in spite of the Sermon on the Mount. The latter of which we mostly give lip service, anyway.

We even believe in Hoodoo Men, only now we call them "intellectuals." They try to cast a spell on the susceptible, telling them they are under attack by dragons, ones who will eat everything in the village, men, women, old folks, children, dogs, cats, goats. And the villagers can only be saved if they listen to the Hoodoo Men and put their spells into effect with missiles and machine guns.

I can tell you the names of some modern-day Hoodoo Men: Max Boot, William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, David Frum, William Bennett, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Victor Davis Hanson. All are trying to convince us we are under attack not by people, but by horror-story monsters.

It's the old story of absolute good and absolute evil. In reality it's a continnum, but reality's no good for conning people and starting wars. The first thing Hoodoo Men have to do is say good is right here, with us, and bad is over there, with them, with those defined as the enemy.

That's how you can recognize Hoodoo Men. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they always use the concepts of an absolute good and an absolute evil, with nothing in-between. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to create dragons.

It's what Hoodoo Men Richard Perle and David Frum did in their book, An End to Evil, when they claimed the United States is good, and those who pose a threat, current or future, are evil and must be neutralized or destroyed. See what they're doing? They're the ones defining what is good and evil, and what is a threat. It's because they're smarter, more aware, and probably more moral than everyone else. In their minds, at least.

Easy, isn't it? If those two nitwits really believe what they wrote, then they obviously believe the whole world is a children's fairy tale, one populated by heroic wizards and people-eating monsters! And if there aren't any monsters out there, then let's create one! Or if there's anything out there sleeping that might pass for a monster, let's kick it over and over until it wakes up! Clowns like them aren't even good Hoodoo Men; it's waaaay too easy to see through them! If they were magicians, the cards would fly out of their hands in front of the audience!

There's one other thing that Hoodoo Men believe in besides absolute good and evil: murder. They exult in it, they exalt it. In their minds, since they dealing with monsters it's okay to rub them out. They ignore the fact monsters only exist in horror stories!

Of course, they never want to get their hands bloody; that's the job of the spell-bound sheeple as they fall off the cliff into piles that get larger and larger.

The problem with people ultimately is not that they are stupid or evil. They're asleep, and don't even know it. They think they're awake. As Rousseau, for all of his insanity, once wisely said: "One is misled not by what he does not know but by what he believes he knows."

Sometimes I just can't believe it. It's the year 2005 and we still fall for spells, cast by incompetents? And monsters, too, apparently, even if we have to make them up.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The War of Perverted Religion

Several days ago a friend of mine, who teaches college economics, called me in a semi-panic. "Tell me what you know about Nietzsche," he asked. It turns out he had jokingly told a philosophy professor he would cover one of his classes, and, the next thing he knew, he was scheduled to be a substitute teaching Nietzsche. About the only thing he knew about Nietzsche, he told me, was that he had a ferocious mustache and a genuis-high forehead.

"Tell the students," I suggested, "that when Nietzsche said, 'God is dead,' he meant the educated classes of his time had lost their religious faith. He believed that with no one to forgive them, their guilt would cause them to hate themselves, and ultimately, hate others. He claimed that because of this loss of faith the 20th century would have what he called 'wars such as have never happened on earth.'"

Nietzsche never meant there had been a heart attack somewhere up in the clouds. He concluded educated people had lost their faith because of 250 years of a science that had aggressively attacked religion, apparently believing the eradication of it would be a benefit for humanity.

Nietzsche, even though an atheist himself, thought otherwise. It turned out he was right, when he wrote his prophecy in 1882 in his book, The Gay Science. Although I've never considered him a philosopher in the traditional sense of the word – I'm not familiar with his ever writing about universals or epistemology or any of the other topics philosophers usually cover – he was a heck of a prophet. One who, when he was right, was terrifyingly right. He cannot be dismissed, even today.

He believed that when the people of his time lost their old religious faith, they would replace it with the new modern faith in rationalism and science – with atheism, philosophical materialism and evolutionary theory. Science would become the new god, he suggested – the new idol to be worshipped.

He also warned that when people gave up religion, which is international, they would instead become barbaric nationalists (as if there's any other kind), worshipping the idols of nation and "race."

He could see it coming, but like nearly every prophet in history, could do nothing about it. Rarely do more than a few listen. Usually, they end up as little more than a voice crying in the wilderness.

The Nazis and Communists were so influenced by the ills that Nietzsche diagnosed that
historians estimate they murdered a figure beyond imagining – 177 million people in the 20th century. But why?

Nietzsche claimed it was because of guilt. Guilt, he believed, was instilled in people before the age of reason. For all their vaunted belief in reason and science, there was still that guilt – and no one to forgive them anymore. And that guilt led to self-hate and the hatred of others.

Yet, I wonder if Nietzsche was completely accurate in his observations. It seems to me the problem has been, more than anything else, the lack of guilt. What guilt did the Nazis and Communists ever feel about their genocide?

I believe the ancient Greeks and the Hebrews had a more accurate analysis. It's not guilt, as Nietzsche thought. It's something that has nothing to do with guilt, except the lack of it – what the Greeks called Hubris, and the Bible, "pride."

During Nietzsche's time, when the educated ceased to believe, the only thing left for them in their nihilism was one of the greatest horrors ever: the worship of Man. Man will always worship something, even if it's, like Narcissus, himself.

This worship of Man as God is one of the main tenets of Leftism. And not surprisingly, the horrors of the 20th century were Leftist horrors. Nazism, Communism, Socialism, Fascism – all Leftist.

That witch's brew of Leftism is what led to the catastrophes of the 20th century – the loss of religious faith (indeed the hatred of religion), the worship of man, race and nation as God (and the concomitant lack of guilt over what they do to others), and a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of science.

Naïve science may say man is an animal, but every time man believes it, he has to turn himself into a god in order to deal with it. Otherwise, he will hate and despise himself – and others. Yet when he sees himself as a god, he will hate and despise not himself, but others.

Blaise Pascal understood those points: "It is dangerous to prove to man too plainly how nearly he on a level with the brutes without showing him his greatness; it is also dangerous to show his greatness too clearly apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is of great advantage to show him both."

It is because of the conflating of nationalism with race that those outside of the nation become less then human, even non-human. That, along with the materialistic assumption that Man is little more than an animal who had meaninglessly evolved, led Nietzsche to write: "If the doctrines . . . of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal . . . are hurled into the people for another generation . . . then nobody should be surprised when . . . brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers. . . will appear in the arena of the future."

In reality, humans are imperfect, but they are not merely animals. In religious terms, they are "fallen." But when man is seen as God, he has to be perfect. And the belief in that perfection – and rightness – of one's own self, or race, or nation – is pure grandiosity. And "grandiosity" is just a modern term for Hubris and the overweening pride condemned in the Bible.

One of the reasons for the condemnation of grandiosity is that when one believes he is perfect, then there can be no guilt over what he does to others. If there are problems, they have to be someone else's fault. All problems – all evil – are projected onto another person, or race, or nation, or religion.

The term for this is "scapegoating," which the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck correctly identified as "the genesis of human evil." The scapegoater says, "I'm not the one with the problem. You are. And once I kill you, there will no problems in the world."

I know it sounds like a simplistic explanation, but I do not believe it is. The Nazis said, "Once we get rid of those pesky Jews and Christians, our problems will be gone." The Communists echoed them with, "Once we get rid of these exploiting capitalists, our problems will be gone."

What will supposedly be left after the "evil" are eradicated? A perfect world. Yet, it never has worked, and never will. How can perfection come about through murder and destruction? Yet humanity never seems to learn this lesson – it goes straight down the memory hole with every new generation.

Too bad Nietzsche is not around today. I wonder what he would make of the 21st century? I think he would see there are enough cracks in the false materialist and naturalist foundations of science to realize that it's no longer the Frankenstein's monster that it used to be. That's a good thing about science; it's self-correcting, even if it takes decades. Sometimes even centuries.

I think he would see something that might surprise even him: a century of religious warfare. One caused by the perversion of religion through Hubris.

Different religions, and moral codes, always agree there are three things needed for any society to be successful: don't murder, don't steal, and keep your word. When religion ceases to support those three things, it ceases to be true religion, and instead becomes perverted. That is one of the problems today.

Just as bad, and maybe even worse, is when religion becomes allied with the idol of the State. Then we get the grandiose "God and Country" (which is really "God and State"). The Nazis had their own term: "Gott mit uns." The Russian Communists: "Holy Mother Russia."

Since all States are based on the Political Means (stealing and murdering), all are, in religious terms, Satanic. This leads to the bizarre spectacle of those supporting "God and Country" (again, "God and State"), not realizing they're really saying "God and Satan."

This confusion is cleared up by the Commandment that reads, "You shall not use God's name for vain causes." It's the one that's almost always mistranslated as, "Don't take God's name in vain." It's got nothing to do with cussing.

Today, we have a President who believes God has chosen him, and not only that, talks to him. Since he is starting World War III, with the accompanying murder, destruction and theft, I would bet that if anyone is talking to him, it's the other guy.

Our enemies say the same thing: they have God on their side, and we are "the Great Satan." If I was the Devil, I'd be chuckling to myself, "I've got these fools unable to tell the difference between me and God!"

The problem is what I believe to be the basis of all crime: Hubris. God has chosen me. I am right and you are wrong. I am good and you are evil. We are going to kill you, or invade and "change" you. But Hubris, as the Greeks and the Bible both pointed out, is always followed by Nemesis.

"Pride goes before destruction," goes the actual saying, "and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Those observations not only apply to individuals, but countries. It's why all empires have fallen. Even if they're convinced they won't.

Even if Nietzsche isn't around today, there are still enough prophets to see what is going to happen. Even if they don't have ferocious mustaches or towering foreheads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The State as Machine

"All Machines are Amplifiers" -- Cooper's Law

That's a true saying: machines are amplifiers, amplifiers of our inherent abilities. Machines are not moral or immoral; they're amoral. They can be used for good or bad.

So the big question is: how can you tell if they are being used for good or bad purposes? To answer this, I look to mythology. Not the old mythologies, but the new ones. Although, to be fair, the new mythologies are just the same old stories retold for modern sensibilities.

One old story, told in a new way, burst on the modern world in the '70s. Everyone knows his name: Darth Vader.

Vader is a modern retelling of the story of Satan, in that his greatest sin is Pride, and he wants to be God and have absolute power over everything, but he's something that Satan or any incarnation of him isn't: he's half man, half machine, a monster who is, as Obi-Wan said, "twisted and evil."

Vader was a representative of the Empire, and everything about the Empire was a soulless machine: the Death Star; the identical Myrmidons known as the stormtroopers, Vader himself. There existed not the slightest evidence of any warmth, or love, or
community. Just the will to power. And as Carl Jung noted, you can have either love or power (meaning political power, which is the power to turn a live human into a corpse), but not both.

Joseph Campbell said something just as perceptive as Jung but funnier: he called Darth Vader "a bureaucrat," living under a system imposed on him. Vader could strangle people by pointing his finger at them, but he was nonetheless a bureaucrat
of the State just as much as a nonentity at the DMV.

On the other side, in the second movie, opposing the Empire, the Ewoks were added. They didn't really use many machines, and advanced ones not at all, but they had community. Compare them to the Empire, and it's easy to see the difference
between them.

Lucas did this split between the Ewoks and the Empire on purpose. He was using an old theme in literature known as the Machine State versus the Natural State. The Empire is a machine, a monster, really; the Ewoks live a natural, organic
life. You can see this same thing in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, in which the Eloi symbolize the Natural State and the Morlocks (who eat the Eloi) the Machine State.

What Lucas was saying is that when technology is appropriated by the State, it will sooner or later turn into a monster that conquers and destroys and murders, that uses up people and eats their lives. The obverse is that when not used by the State, it will almost always be used for good purposes. In other words, when used by the free market, good will come from machines.

You need look no farther than modern State militaries, eternally searching for ways to drug soldiers, to remake them so they look and fight like the Borg (also half human, half machine) – and to what end? To kill, to conquer. (Of course this is
rationalized as "bringing freedom" to the benighted of the world.)

I just mentioned the Borg. They are also representations of the Machine State, people turned into machines, to be used by the State to destroy and conquer. And not surprisingly at all, the Borg Queen complained, "Why do you resist us? We only wish
to improve the quality of your lives."

This "improving the quality of your lives" entailed turning people into automatons who had no free will, who never question their leaders because they cannot, not with all those machines screwed into their brains. For all practical purposes, they had no self-consciousness. This unquestioning unconsciousness is, ultimately, what the State wants from everyone. To be sheep who never question, and follow all orders. Since the State does not (yet) have the technology or drugs to pervert us into their desired, obedient machines, right now it has to use propaganda in its attempt to brainwash us into turning into their sacrificial little lambs.

Or, I should say, Borg, who never question. Or stormtroopers, who never question.

The Borg are, in my opinion, are a more accurate representation than the Empire. The Borg Cube is a gigantic womb, and the "people" in it are taken care of womb-to-tomb. Isn't this what the average hypnotized sheeple wants from the State? To never think, to avoid all anxiety, to be taken care of like a baby? They certainly have never heard what Frederick the Great said: "If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the ranks."

What these people never realize is that the downside of welfare is warfare. Welfare/warfare are opposite sides of the same coin. You won't find one without the other.

You can see this warfare/welfare theme today in the U.S., which unfortunately has turned into an Empire. The State is trying to turn the U.S. into Nerfworld while slaughtering foreigners across the globe, in an attempt to turn them into us, i.e., the proto-Borg.

Or, as the Borg broadcast to everyone, "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." This will never happen, of course, since people will fight to the death against us. Also, of course, as the old saying tells us, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter.

People also never realize that States try to make everyone the same, so that being equal and identical one can easily be replaced by another, just like a cog in a machine. The loss of an individual life doesn't mean anything. Notice how soldiers
came to be called "G.I.s," which means "Government Issue." It's also why all stormtroopers looked exactly alike, and the loss of one Borg meant nil.

When the State uses machines to destroy and kill, it turns into a monster, the way Vader was a monster, or the Borg. And monsters, even in the simplest of children’s fairy tales, are things that always menace good.

I read a fair amount of science fiction, which is the only truly visionary genre. Originally technology was portrayed as not having much of a downside -- a lot of it was like Heinlein's Starship Troopers, although there were exceptions, such as Fred Saberhagen’s Berserkers. But starting pretty much with cyberpunk, suddenly writers were looking very closely at the dark side -- or maybe I should say, the Dark Side -- of technology, until we ended up with The Matrix. But Star Wars preceded all of them.

And in nearly every story in cyberpunk, the State was in some way almost always involved in the badness.

Ezra Pound once called artists "the antenna of the race." You might say the same about schizophrenics, since the paranoid ones often believe machines are controlling them, machines usually operated by agents of the State.

And what these antennae have been saying for the last few decades is: be very, very careful of what the State does with its machines, because, contrary to the cheers of its deluded supporters, that monster will always use them to squash you like a bug.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The End of the World...Maybe

I decided many years ago I'm not excessively endowed with brainpower. I can't sing or dance, either, unless you want to count my imitation of Peter Boyle's Monster performing "Puttin' on the Ritz" in Young Frankenstein. My lack of genius is why I envy The Brain (of Pinky and the Brain fame). Although, I'm proud to admit, my head, as a child, was shaped like a lightbulb, just like The Brain's.

Being simple-minded, I seek simple rules. After putting in my time in public schools and college, I realized I had mostly been miseducated (except for a few classes, all of which I can count on one hand, excluding my thumb), and decided I had better find some basics. What I found is that the ancient rules, the ones that have been around for thousands of years, are the ones that work the best. The Ten Commandments, for example, are ten, easy-to-remember bits of eternal wisdom.

"Commandments" is an incorrect translation; "Utterances" or "Words" is much more accurate. I prefer "Laws," as in "Natural Laws." If you break them, bad things automatically happen. No cops are needed. The 20th century was a time of worshipping the false idols of Man and State, in violation of the First Law ("have no other gods but the one true God"). It doesn't matter to me if people believe in any sort of God or not; these Ten Laws still exist, and violation of their practical wisdom brings unhappiness, destruction and death. You can say, "As you sow, you reap," or "What goes around, comes around," or karma ("the moral law of cause and effect") or kismet, or the Tao, or whatever name you want to give it. Those laws are part of human nature. Steal, murder, commit adultery, and give false testimony ... and watch what happens to people and society.

And if people can't do it, it's doubly forbidden for governments (which in a sense don't really exist, since they are composed of people). The big difference is that governments try to claim a monopoly on force, which makes them unimaginably destructive. I've read estimates that up to 200 million people died in the 20th century at the hands of various governments. And all because of the violation of "You shall not murder."

Of all the wars the US was involved in in the 20th century, not one was any of our business. WWI was a European war; we should have stayed out of it. Woodrow Wilson (about whom H.L. Mencken wrote, "He thought he was Jesus Christ") got us into it to "make the world safe for democracy." It led directly to WWII. The Communist FDR manipulated the Japanese into attacking us so that Russia would not have to fight a two-front war against the Germans and Japanese. FDR also gave Eastern Europe to the USSR. WWII led to Korea and Vietnam. Panama, Kuwait, and Serbia were also none of our business. Kuwait led to 9/11 and Oklahoma City. Every one of these wars has led to unintended consequences and more war. As will our current war. And before 9/11, the US government was trying to start a war with China (I wonder if the Chinese are stupid enough to attack Taiwan? Or do they want their citizens to be "collateral damage" from having their water and waste treatment facilities war-crimed into oblivion, as we did in Serbia and Iraq?)

Right now there are a number of people who believe the world – as we now know it – might come to an end soon because of the events in the Middle East. They are entitled to their beliefs. I know a woman who believes aliens kidnapped her and took her eggs. She's entitled to her beliefs, too. Unfortunately, a number of these people are – in the name of God – actively working to achieve Armageddon. And they are trying to do it in some truly strange ways.

This raises the question: how can they reconcile "You shall not murder" with their attempts to bring the world to an end? They can't have it both ways. What a Catch-22! If you follow the prohibition against murder, you can't attempt to end the world. But if you don't attempt to end the world ... no Rapture, no Great Tribulation, no Jesus returning to sit on a throne.

Quite a few fundamentalists today unswervingly support Israel, the reason being they believe the restoration of that country in 1948 fulfills the Biblical prophecies in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation, and in Matthew and Luke. Therefore, Israel must be supported at all costs, so that the End Times may soon come.

This is why I believe we are involved in a religious war, one that King Dubya the Narrow-Headed doesn't really understand. If he did, our policy in the Middle East wouldn't be as it is. This religious war is why there is so much support for Israel among fundamentalists, and such silence on the slaughter over there. (What's that old saying? "Kill them all and let God sort them out"?) To these people, it's all part of God's plan before Jesus returns and gives a whuppin' to the Anti-Christ.

If I was King, I would take all the Christians and Jews who support Israel (and send money there) and deport them all over there. I would do the same with Muslims here who support the Islamic countries. As it stands right now, the US government is involved in 4,000-year-old tribal warfare, and is in fact supporting both sides in the conflict. The right hand knows not what the left hand is doing. When people move here, they are supposed to give up their ancient hatreds. If they don't, we end up being drawn into them. What good can possibly come from that?

One of my friends is half-Polish and half-Russian. I'm Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, German, and Cherokee. We've decided we should not only hate each other, but also ourselves.

Joel Miller points out there is more evidence in the Bible against this current version of Israel being the Israel of the End Times than there is for it. Modern-day Israel was founded by a bunch of atheists and socialists. Does this sound like it fulfills the Covenant between God and Israel? It might, but I doubt it. If it doesn't, the Final Days are not just around the corner, no matter how much people try to kick-start it.

The Book of Revelation is so vague and symbolic it can be interpreted any way you want to interpret it. There was such bitter fighting over its being in the Bible it was barely included. I've seen people claim it proves flying saucers exist. It would be different if it read, "On 9/11/2001...." On the other hand, "You shall not murder" is so clear no one can argue about it.

There are people in the US and Israel who are on purpose trying to start WWIII in their hopes to bring the world to an end. If their attempts are not a violation of "You shall not murder," then what is? These people are not working for peace, but destruction. They may think they are following God's plan, but are they?

Lest anyone think I'm speaking against Israel, I'm not. But is not working for peace over there better than working for destruction ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God")? Arabs and Muslims don't have the ability to start WWIII; they are reduced to flying planes into buildings and using their own kids as bombs. But some Christians can.

As LRC's Gary North as pointed out, there are roughly three main views of Christian eschatology: premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism (these views are too complex to go into here; his article covers them completely).

What is important to remember is some of these groups believe that one-third of the inhabitants of Israel are going to be offed during the End Times. And they believe this is going to happen really soon. So, there are people working to bring this about because of their belief, for an example, in Zechariah 13:8, 9: "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried."

These people have to die in order to fulfill what these groups see as God's plan. To this I can only say, "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." I have no idea how many people have been killed in the name of God, but I'm sure it's been a lot. And yet, even today, in the 21st century, we still have people doing it. This is a perversion of religion.

I have for years been intrigued by the story of Satan, which I see as the most accurate and perceptive explanation of human evil. I see this evil as comprising three things: the desire to rule (to be God), the desire for attention (to be worshipped), and the desire to destroy.

Since these people are trying to destroy, what does this say about them? Who exactly are they serving, in their desire to destroy the world?