The laws of “God” and the laws of Man

Recently, I heard that the Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks published an editorial for a local newsletter wherein he wrote that the people have a “moral obligation” to obey the police because their authority comes from “God”, which is stupid (for reasons I’ll get into later on). In the editorial, he claims that the government allows criminals to do whatever they please until they are proven guilty while law enforcement officers are immediately found guilty are found guilty as soon as it appears they have done something wrong, which is just as stupid. This man has no idea about the concept of innocent until proven guilty. No is “allowed” to commit crimes, and being presumed innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean you get to walk free until you’re found guilty. You can be arrested if you are suspected of having committed a crime and if you are found guilty of committing that crime you will be punished, but you can’t be sentenced for that crime until you are proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are guilty through hard evidence and a court of law. That’s how what innocent until proven guilty means.

Meeks published his editorial just days after a Grand Jury declined to indict a deputy of his for assaulting Deanna Robinson, who was pregnant at the time, and also declined to indict Robinson for allegedly assaulting the officer. Here’s the thing, Meeks complains that law enforcement officers are immediately found guilty as soon as it appears they have committed wrongdoing, which would presume the absence of the involvement of a trial, but I’m a tad confused what he thinks “appears” means because the video clearly shows the deputy assaulting the pregnant woman, which would be taken as visual evidence. Does he not recognize it when an officer of the law is exerting undue force against a pregnant woman? Or is it that he simply doesn’t believe law enforcement officers should be held accountable for any kinds of abuses.

Pictured: Randy Meeks

He states explicitly that the authority of law enforcement over the people comes directly from “God”, which in this case can only mean the Judeo-Christian deity Jehovah since he refers to the Bible as supposedly mandating his views. Specifically he refers to Romans 13:1 and 2, which together state:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1

Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:2

It’s not hard to imagine why this is inherently problematic, or just plain entirely wrong. If you believe the above verse to be true, then it suggests that law enforcement officers are infallible, due their authority having been established by a “higher power” so to speak. The problem with this is that this means that law enforcement officers can do whatever they want to people, even if it wildly exceeded what we would consider to be their authority because to them nothing exceeds their authority, and even if it consisted of killing, raping, and generally abusing the people they are supposed to be protecting. You can’t let law enforcement become infallible because it means they can’t be held accountable for any abuse, wrongdoing, misconduct, or incompetence on their part, and it also means the people can’t demand any redress of grievances caused by abuse, wrongdoing, misconduct, or incompetence, which in my opinion can only do more harm to law and order than any sort of good. In any case, we would definitely have authoritarianism at work, individuals would have no liberty and law and order would be inadequate because it is based on brute force and tyranny rather than sound governing principles.

The other problem is that, in any case, the idea that the authority of law enforcement and governments is mandated by any sort of “God” is complete bullshit because, when you think about it, it’s entirely inaccurate. All systems of law, order, and government are, and have always been, constructed by human beings. They are human constructs, they require human investment, and without human beings they are nothing. No matter how much they are inspired by anything “divine”, they are human. It doesn’t matter what the Bible or any texts like it say, because human history contradicts this assertion indefinitely and consistently.

But of course, this stuff is all something that the foolish Randy Meeks has failed to account for.

What the fuck is happening in India?

You won’t believe what I’ve heard of recently out of India. In a village in the Baghpat district of India, a girl named Meenakshi and her younger sister have been “sentenced” to rape by an all-male council who seems to be operating outside of India’s legal system. They’ve ordered that the girls be raped, their faces blackened, and that they be paraded naked, apparently as “punishment for their brother eloping with a married woman from a higher caste, and the two girls in question are fleeing the village and pleading for protection from India’s Supreme Court.

There’s absolutely everything wrong with what’s going on here. The most obvious of these things is that sexual violence is apparently something people use to punish people, which no civilized or well-ordered social system would ever allow. The fact that it’s an all-male council ordering this also clearly reeks of misogyny. Then there’s the fact the council claims it is enforcing an “eye-for-an-eye form of justice”, which seems wrong to me for at least two reasons: (1) the principle of lex talionis (eye for an eye justice) doesn’t apply if you’re “punishing” someone who didn’t commit a crime instead of someone who did commit the crime, and most crucially (2) why the fuck is adultery considered a criminal offence, let alone one that can be punished with the sexual violence the council describes? But what’s really striking is that these village councils are operating completely outside the legal authority of the Indian government, which would make their rulings entirely extrajudicial in nature. According to Amnesty International, who are running a petition in order to ensure that the girls are protected, there are a number of village councils (referred to as Khat Panchyats) across India that are unelected and operate outside of India’s legal system, and are often run by older men from dominant castes who prescribe rules for social behavior and interaction. India’s Supreme Court condemns these councils as “kangaroo courts” and their rulings are deemed illegal, but apparently that doesn’t mean much because these councils continue to operate in rural areas of India and continue to carry out their decisions outside the legal authority of India’s government, and to me this means that India’s government is more powerless to do anything about these councils than it should be.

An Indian cartoon illustrating pretty much what is going in parts of India.

This is something that can’t be allowed to continue, and the worst thing about it is this not the only time something like this has happened in India. In January of last year, a village tribunal in West Bengal decreed that a 20-year old woman be sexually assaulted by 12 people as “punishment” for falling in love with a man from outside of the community and then failing pay a fine of 50,000 rupees imposed by the village council. Four years earlier, in the same area, village elders ordered a young woman to strip naked and walk before large crowds for having relations with a man from a different caste. In July that same year, a village from the state of Jharkhand ordered the rape of a 14-year old girl after her brother was accused of assaulting a married woman. As a matter of fact, sexual violence in general is a serious problem in India, one that gained major exposure after an incident in 2012 where a young girl was gang-raped and left to die in Dehli, and unfortunately one that India’s government has been accused of having a poor track record of dealing with. Despite promising to crack down on rape and sexual violence and despite strengthening rape laws, the Indian government hasn’t done a lot to prevent women from having to fear for their lives, especially in rural villages where the government doesn’t seem to be doing a lot about the village councils who operate outside the legal authority of the government. In the case of the latter, the problem is that these councils operate on old forms of tradition that view women not as individuals, but as representations of the “honor” of a man or a community, a horrible view that seems to have gone unchanged in rural parts of India.

When did hacking become an act of justice?

I remember hearing a couple of weeks ago about a website named Ashley Madison that apparently allows people to have affairs while married, and that some people were hacking the website and apparently breached it. A group of hackers calling themselves The Impact Team had apparently breached the database of Avid Life Media, the parent company behind Ashley Madison, demanding that they shut down the website along with another website called Established Men, threatening to release the records of all its customers if they refuse to comply. And this morning I found out that the information had been revealed. When I found out that this had happened I thought “this isn’t good at all”. I thought I can only expect more events like this to happen later to other companies, and I feel it means false righteousness has prevailed. Seriously, just look at what The Impact Team sent to Avid Life Media.

When I first found out about this story I tried to find out what on earth could motivate a group like The Impact Team to attack Ashley Madison, and I couldn’t really find anything other than a false sense of righteousness or so it would seem. It’s probably more likely they’re motivated less by conservative “hacktivism” and more by the desire to bully people. Also I have this feeling that they seem to hate homosexuality because they’re willing to hack a site on the grounds that it provides gay dating among other things. Whatever the case, to me they just seem like hooligans, or at worst terrorists. Either way, it shouldn’t take too much to figure out what should be done about them.

There’s another dimension of this event that worries me. After the massive leaking of the data of Ashley Madison’s users, the site released a statement saying:

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”

I’m not certain where Avid Life Media gets the idea of the hackers appointing themselves as moral judges, but it seems like a possible motivation, and even then it seems like the motivation is based on false righteousness, the kind that is dishonest and fueled by base ignorance and malice. You have to ask people like The Impact Group, what could possibly be moral and ethical about leaking the data of millions of law-abiding and innocent people? Even if it’s apparently in the name of marriage, I highly doubt they’re going to ask them why they are cheating to begin with because you never know when somebody starts cheating as a result of an unsatisfying sex life, or unfulfilling marital life in general. This sort of thing feels typical of mob mentality, where all you do is go after an unlikable target without ever demanding context. As I have asked before, is this justice? Shouldn’t it be wrong to blackmail a law-abiding company to get it to shut down its websites on pain of revealing the private data of its customers? Shouldn’t it be wrong to invade the private databases of law-abiding companies and individuals under any circumstances? In a era where the term “hacktivism” is an actual thing, we should be asking ourselves: in what way does breaching personal information and revealing it against the will of an individual constitute a valid form of peaceful protest or political activism? Is it not just hooliganism, criminality, or even terrorism given a heroic face by an increasing culture of Internet-based mob mentality? These are questions that hackers, whether or not they identify as hacktivists, probably don’t wish to answer, but I only hope that, in the future, they may answer to the tip of the sword of true justice.

Why mob “justice” is likely to be a fatal flaw for democracy

I came across a Vox article that focused on all the commotion about killing of a lion named Cecil and the phenomenon of mob mentality and mob “justice”, and I begin to feel that mob mentality is a very real and growing phenomenon, one which cannot be allowed to grow lest it evolve into the cause of rampant disorder and fear. I could see myself fearing the prospect of a world where the mob is allowed to the point where it targets anyone who is different, which would inevitably include myself and thus present a personal danger to me, while invading everyone’s privacy, and I could feel an ethical desire to have a role in seeing true justice overcome mob “justice”. But there’s more to it than that. The fact that mob “justice” runs on the lowest common denominator, a group of individuals targeting who ever they feel like based only on brash subjective judgement that are made without contemplation, it feels a lot like how democracy tends to run on the lowest common denominator, because a lot of people go against a candidate for failing to please the common people (at least that’s the vibe I get in my own country). And as I’ve mentioned before, in our liberal and democratic “society”, the government has an awful lot of potential to acquiesce to the mob mentality of the lowest common denominator. The lowest common denominator is also capable of getting the government to babysit them because they failed to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens as long as they nag them enough.

The thing is, the whole reason many of us embrace democracy with the lack of contemplation that we do is because it puts the people, or at least the majority of people and by extension the lowest common denominator, at the center of matters of governance. It requires that we have a lot of faith in the people to do the right thing, or simply to have the right opinion and use it to influence things, and it always assumes the people are always interested in making things better for everyone. A problem with that is many people are likely to be more interested in their own conveniences, desires, or even opinions, than in serious contemplation on proper governance, and principles that would be conducive to said governance. The people have their opinions, but you can’t assume they agree on anything. We’re dealing with whole populations; the larger a group of people is, the less likely it is that they will come to an agreement on anything. It should also be remembered that everyone has their own opinions, and everyone argues with other people about said opinions. No one can totally agree with everyone except on the simplest and most universal matters. We think way too much about the Western world being a democracy just because we get to vote for our leaders, when in fact it feels like we’ve never had pure democracy. Pure democracy would mean that the rule of the people is total, which would mean a rule by the people and nothing but the people or the masses. That’s pretty much the same thing as mob rule when you get right down to it, but more importantly, it’s also rule by a huge and disparate group of individuals (in other words, everyone) who will be incapable of agreeing on anything, and to me it seems it doesn’t take long for there to be a situation where one group of people suppresses the other in such a way that the other party has less rights than they would in whatever system we’ve got now. We don’t have pure democracy. All we have is the ability to vote for the person we like most without knowing their true merit or talent, and the ability to tell people in government what they think hoping that they care enough to pay heed.

The problem with giving the people too much power is that most of the people have no idea how it should be used, and do not spend a lot of time thinking about it. When you democratize justice, you are making it so that the masses at large try and make decision on right and wrong, to try and protect the innocent, and to try and punish wrongdoing. You only have to look at recent examples of mob “justice” to see what the justice of the masses is like because they do not know anything about criminal justice systems, likely no more than I myself. When you live in a state where the masses try to dispense justice, you might as well pray to whatever God from on high you believe in to send plague, fire, or lightning bolts on wrongdoers because even that would be better because you are unlikely to wrongfully shame or harass someone by doing so. You don’t even have to actually do anything wrong for the mob to descend on you: you just have to be suspected of doing something wrong (like with Sunil Tripathi, who was accused of being one of the Boston marathon bombers and whose family Reddit users started hounding because of it, after which it was found he committed suicide), or of being associated with someone who did something wrong. Hell, on many social media sites, all you have to do is express an unpopular opinion, say something offensive, or even just say or do something stupid, all often without any idea that the mob of the average Twitter users, for instance, will descend upon you for it. And what about when people dig into your private lives and details and reveal them to the public, or when hackers threaten to expose personal data kept on a website? Is that justice? And don’t get me started on people like Anonymous, people who feel they can hack not just disreputable organizations or faceless corporations, but celebrities who likely have nothing to do with whatever politics they’ve been espousing, and call it a morally justified act, all while flying the flag of collective anarchy. Their self-righteousness is not only boundless, but it actually seems befitting of their time. In my opinion, if you give too much power to the people, all that means is more idiots either abusing that power or simply not knowing how to use it and going on to do stupid if not heinous things, and if we have pure democracy, or just plain democratize the rights of justice and liberty, the only thing that can arise is disorder and failure.

Revised prayer/mantra

It had just occurred to me that since the pantheon of symbolic deities has changed, I need to change the prayer to accommodate the changes. Here is the updated prayer:

By the righteous spirit of Guan Di,

the heavenly desire of Dairokuten Maou,

the fearsome will of Asura,

the youthful persevering fire of Agni,

the watery depth of Varuna,

the horned force and dark draw of Beelzebub,

the primeval creativity and destructive force of Shiva,

and the guiding principle of Chaos and freedom,

with Liberty and Justice at my side,

I proclaim my individuality and invoke strength and fire within

So mote it be

Am

One other thing to note. Shakti is not mentioned this time so that I can stick to the deities and guiding principles. I can likely honor Shakti another way. Also, I may start looking into individual prayers for individual deities, rather than solely rely on a single universal prayer.

Resolution of the pantheon

I have spent some time considering the pantheon, and I am pleased to say I have come to a conclusion.

Chi You, the deity that once enshrined stubbornness, will be overtaken by Guan Di, the Chinese deity who was originally the historical warrior Guan Yu. He will represent the warrior, righteousness, honor, and the spirit of the warrior, and my aspiration and admiration for all of these things. He also maintains the link to Chinese culture. Since he is traditionally viewed as a god of loyalty as well, he can also represent commitment and loyalty to oneself and what one believes in morally, but without self-stifling stubbornness or being bull-headed (no pun intended). Guan Di’s righteousness is intended to reflect righteousness as a human characteristic, a standard or obligation to be imposed. And finally, Guan Di’s status as a hero god and origins in a historical hero pretty marks him as a god of heroism, which ties into an important part of what I want to try to be.

Dairokuten Maou will remain, and in fact he’ll have a little more to him now. He remains the representative of lust, desire, want, and pleasure, but especially heavenly pleasures. Remember, though he is meant to be the lustful deity, he is also meant to be tastefully lustful, not a deity that intends to be crass in his lustful nature. He could even be a mild epicurist.

Asura, aka Ashura Matsuda, will remain in my pantheon, but he cannot remain as the god of righteousness now that Guan Di is here. He will remain as the god of passion and the strong mind, and symbol of the desire to be a strong person in life and to act with passion. He might just retain his association with light, owing to the history of the name Asura. However, he may be more commonly referred to as just Asura from now on, and may be more closely aligned to the Buddhist Asura King and an early singular deity named Asura who may have been worshiped in India. It is possible that some of Asura’s qualities may unintentionally invoke stubbornness, but it can be countered.

Varuna will remain in the same light as he currently is. He is the god of water and watery traits. He is the god that is deep, reflective, kind, tender, mystical, and aquatic. He is also a harmonious deity.

Murugan will be replaced as the god of youth by Agni. Agni is the Vedic Hindu god of fire, but he is also eternally young, which earns him the god of youth title here as well. He will be linked with the ram, and thus associated with Mars and Aries, because I am comfortable with Aries being a part of my picture. Agni can also be associated with the sacred fire, not just in the Indian context but in all religious contexts, including the sacred fire of Persia and the Zoroastrian faith, the sacred fire of Rome, even the Biblical fire.  Agni is also said to be associated and compared with the sun and the sun is also said to be one of his forms. Although there is already a full solar deity in the Vedic pantheon (Surya), the celestial flames of the sun (which in turn bring radiant light to the earth) are also seen as a form of Agni. Interestingly enough, Agni is also associated with lightning, with lightning being the atmosphere form and the flame being terrestrial. Agni can also be associated with food and hunger, not least because of fire’s consuming attribute, and that of Agni himself. Not to mention Guan Di’s association with not just the warrior but also heroic qualities makes Murugan’s role as the hero redundant. Finally, an additional symbolism which also relates to his eternal youth. As the fire is re-lit always, he remains immortal and ever-young, but that could also refer to resilience; even as things grow old and dark, dawn will always rise again.

Shiva will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He represents the great creative force, but in his capacity as the destroyer he can also represent the thrill of destruction and destroying waste and clutter to create space. As the symbol of primal energy and spirit, he could be a God principle of sorts, and Durga can be venerated alongside him as the female manifestation of the same energy. Interesting to note, Shiva is the wild god of destruction and creative energy, but at the same time he also seems to be a harmonious deity. I guess that’s true to his nature as a deity where opposites meet. His intensity and emotionality remain a fact. He can also be associated with light, in part because of his association with truth which pierces ignorance.

Beelzebub will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He is the deific link to Satan as a principle, and my interpretation of Satan (because lets face it, Satan seems to have different names for different people). As Satan, he is the one who gave mankind a sword with which to fight oppression, he is the wielder of the lightning bolt and bearer of the true light, commander of the violent winds of passion and fires of the underworld, and the king of the demons and the wilderness of chaos. He is darker and more bestial than Dairokuten Maou, but he also represents my ideological process, my belief in spiritual immortality and spiritual autonomy. In a way Beelzebub is my ideology and Shiva relates to nature. Also, in lieu of anyone else, he’ll also be the god of heavy metal. 😉

Liberty and Justice will remain the same way they were. They may join Beelzebub/Satan as my gods of ethics.

The Deities page(s) will be updated accordingly, and eventually new paintings will be added.

The spirit that it is not to be lost

tongues-of-fire

Two days I had a conversation that led me to feel reminded of a very important reason why I adore warriors (or more or less the idea of the warrior, and I guess Oriental stuff by the same virtue), the weapons of warriors, the warrior deities of Asia, the fierce divine images such as Kirtimukha and the leontocephaline, and the ferocious wrathful deities of Tibet, and I guess the same reason why heavy metal, action heroes, and the color red, or even some aspects of the rest of religion, are all endearing to me: it’s because of a spirit I have (not spirit as in demon or ghost) inside me, a spirit that I believe makes me who I am.

I think I’ve had this spirit all my life, but it’s not manifested in the same way all my life. As a kid I don’t think I was as aware as I am know, and I was very aware of the images I know frequently associate with or their aesthetic and spiritual value, but I think I was a very energetic kid and I had passion in me as a teenager, if any of that counts. The spirit I have has never changed. I have grown, but I’ve never really changed or lost the spirit I have, even if I don’t always have the opportunity to manifest it as actions.

I’m tempted to think it’s the same spirit that draws me to the Fires of Chaos, or that the spirit itself is the Fires of Chaos manifest in some way.  Or perhaps it is the chthonic flame I have spoken of once before. Or perhaps, it is a slightly different fire: one I call the Fire of Spirit. Or it is the flames of both Chaos and spirit, but that would be something wouldn’t it?

Whatever the case, I cannot allow that spirit to be lost. Not ever. Not to any winter, not to the weight of the world, not to the troubles of this life, not to any kind of despair. I swear to do as I have always done, and continue to honor that which makes me who I am. And I’ve got a feeling is that as I stay close to everything I value (and keep listening to heavy metal music 😉 ), I won’t have to worry since I seem to keep coming back to it, though I wish I didn’t have to worry about losing myself. But of course, wishing won’t make it so.