Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Papua New Guinea Cannibal Descendant Apologies Plus Yet More Religious Guilt

I am not pro-cannibalism by any stretch of the imagination, but this story in the BBC News really got me scratching my head. A village where murders, and cannibalism, happened literally over a hundred years ago are apologizing for the murder-cannibalisms. Thousands attend.

Then, from the article:

The head of the mission, English pastor George Brown, avenged the killings by taking part in an expedition that resulted in the deaths of a number of tribespeople and the torching of several villages.

But, then:

PNG's Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane praised the early missionaries for making the country Christian - and called for more people to follow its guiding principles.

So, the villagers killing the Christian missionaries, who were Western imperialists, is bad and you need to have a reconciliation ceremony a century later but the Christians who enacted reprisals to those murders, which killed an unknown number of people but is recorded as having destroyed whole villages, are to be praised for, ironically, bringing the Ten Commandments to the island. The same commandments those missions honored more in their breach than their observance.

And where are the Methodists to come forward and say, "Golly, uh, maybe . . . village destroying reprisals was wrong." Why aren't Christians taking any responsibility for the vast suffering their cultural imperialism has inflicted on the people they "converted"? I'm not just talking cultural damage, either, but stuff like murders and villages burned -- the actual material cost of the horrors of this missionary work, work that continues to this day? Where are the Christians coming up and saying that it was a terrible thing what their ancestors did, that the work was attended with huge violence, and it was vicious and arrogant to go into other people's societies and through fraud, force and intimidation change their societies -- often, at the same time, extracting both cheap labor from the people and resources from their land? I'm not going to hold my breath for that one.

Still, it caught my attention of the fundamental hypocrisy of Christianity. The people who were viciously colonized by Christians are apologizing because they violently resisted colonialization, they praise the people who invaded them, killed their people, destroyed their culture, but Christians are silent about what they did to the people they attacked, killed and whose cultures they destroyed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Masamune Shirow, Hierarchy and Science-Fiction

Masamune Shirow, Cyberpunk and the Big Man

In many ways, Masamune Shirow, the Japanese manga artist who writes such titles as Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, is the finest living cyberpunk author. More than just about anyone, he envisions a world where the awesome organizational skills of computers are interleaved in real time with physical action. In all obstacles the characters face, they are addressing both a hyperspeed information battle between their electronic brains and highly organized physical action.

But there's something that has long bothered me about Shirow's futurism, and I just thought out what it was -- it is a trait that is shared by many cyberpunk authors and, more generally, many science-fiction authors. The problem is the problem with the hero.

In Shirow's books, the protagonist is almost always a person who is the apex decision maker in the multi-layered confrontations I was talking about above. The underlaying proposition is that computer technology will further centralize decision making processes in powerful authority figures, that we'll become increasingly hierarchical by advances of computer technology. Perhaps this is merely a decision that Shirow (and other science-fiction authors) make to highlight things narratively, but it I think the facts bear out that technological innovation, broadly speaking, decentralizes decision making processes -- even extremely technical ones.

What this reminded me of is the nature of technological innovation in the United States. After World War II, the government built several huge laboratories to develop military technologies. But these highly centralized facilities were inefficient at creating better scientific information -- they decentralized scientific development to universities.

One of the key things to keep in mind that decentralized does not mean disorganized. Science, broadly speaking, is a highly organized endeavor and the decentralization of science was made possible by increases in organization. You're reading this very article on one of the key technologies that allows decentralization without disorganization -- the Internet. The deepening penetration of information technology into all levels of society allowed people to operate both independently but in an organized fashion, more rationally distributing workloads across more and more people. The speed with which consensus forms is shocking when the pressure is on.

So, for instance, in the disaster of 911, the people who survived were not those that followed instructions but those that used various wireless technologies -- such as Blackberries -- to create their own escape strategies. So, what I'm talking about isn't merely on the level of speculation. In a real world hazardous environment, decentralized decision making strategies lead to a better physical survival rate than obeying a centralized authority.

But Shirow, and most other science-fiction authors, don't even try to address this. Rather than decision-making being a consensus effort of many different elements, decision making is always a tightly controlled endeavor done by a powerful authority figure.

Going hand-in-hand with this is the believe that the people "in charge" have better and more reliable information than we do. Even today, for those of us who are online, that's not actually the case in most things. At one time, yes, centralized authority figures had a better overall picture of things than most people. In 14th century France, the king had ministers who were responsible for being knowledgeable about things of national importance, who learned what they knew, generally, through letter writing campaigns with various aristocrats. It took a tremendous amount of energy to get even general information to the King of France, and impossible to get everything the King of France knew to all of his subjects. Now, it is easy for a person to say something and have it be available to millions . . . to anyone that wants to get it. And, increasingly, we have comprehensive indices of information, allowing a person to more and more easily find relevant and concise information about whatever questions they want to ask. Additionally, of course, everyone can just talk to everyone else, now. It's trivially easy to strike up conversations with people all over the world, completely circumventing any hierarchical information networks entirely. I want to know what the situation on the ground in Baghdad is, I can write a Baghdadi, read their blogs and community news services. And that information will be at least as relevant for an understanding of the news as anything I read in The New York Times (indeed, considering how politically compromised newspapers are, I'd consider a blog of a Baghdadi to be considerably more relevant than the NYT or any other traditional newspaper). Lateral connections produce at least as good of information as hierarchical information providers. (I would even go so far as to say that, on whole, they produce much better information because they lack the institutional agendas of big news organizations.)

Indeed, I question the validity of all secret information because it passes through so few hands. The very value of secret information is, theoretically, that no one knows you have it -- but there's a flip side to that. You can't really check it out too well, either, because to do so reveals what you're looking for. So who corrects the data? Who knows! We don't even know the criteria for checking it. But when that same information is make public, everyone can check it, it can be debated, discussed, analyzed, proven or disproven. Indeed, this is the traditional model of scientific progress, which has been wonderfully successful -- by putting information out in public, it improves because people can either refute or support it. Secrets? You can't do that.

So, given that horizontal, lateral information connections are at least as valid as hierarchical information channels, the untrustworthiness of secrets, and the ability of decentralized by highly organized units to create meaningful consensus more swiftly than a top-down hierarchical command structure, the whole premise of Shirow's work, to my eyes, teeters. Perhaps it is merely the legacy of traditional narrative structure, where a key protagonist does everything. But I think the evidence is overwhelming that technology is decentralizing information and decision making processes, not embedding them in a hierarchy.

This is a common trend in science-fiction, though. How many science-fiction works have literal monarchies as the preferred government of the future? I understand that most people view their own culture as being the pinnacle of human achievement and never even try to imagine a superior form of government, but saying that in the future that monarchy will a viable form of government is akin to saying that in the future people will be using wood burning spaceships! Wood! The energy of the future!

And even when they don't have that sort of absurdity, the story almost always takes place around some tight hierarchical organization. So, even in the original Star Trek the socialism of the setting was undercut by the overt militarism of Starfleet. It's like . . . if you don't belong to some sort of top-down hierarchical organization, science-fiction writers (as a whole) aren't interested in writing about the characters or situation. Which doesn't seem to be the actual trend. The actual trend is for less hierarchy.

Still, that is my science-fiction observation for the day.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pacifist Bashing and Violent Political Fantasies

One of the more interesting things that happens from time to time, is when someone . . . picks on pacifists. In this case, it's fantasy writer Steven Brust who for some reason bashes pacifists.

Me, I don't get attacking pacifists. Mind you, I'm not a pacifist (because I believe in immediate self-defense), but, man, I really, really want to live in a world where pacifism works. I think that pacifism should be part of the goal of any sane political and social order, because of the obviousness with which war and murder are horrific. I think it's a great shame that I can't be a pacifist and I think pacifists are a shining example of much of what is best with humanity. If they ere, they ere on the side of love and peace . . . and I do not think they ere. I think they are simply before their time, but I think their presence helps to create the time that will suit them.

Almost all people who attack pacifism use some of the same arguments. One of them is that, sometimes, you need to use a little violence to stop a greater violence. Inevitably, what is brought up is World War II. Hitler would not have been stopped with non-violent confrontation. The . . . nuttier amongst them will bring up the sorts of things Brust does. Allow me to quote:

Had the social democrats used the violence of the state that was put into their hands in 1918, Hitler could not have come to power. Had the Stalinists not withheld arms from the Spanish working class in Madrid, Franco would have fallen early and the Spanish Civil War would not have dragged on.

The "if someone had used violence against Hitler, or the fascists, early on then the bad person couldn't have come to power and the world would have been a better place". This reasoning I've always found to be intensely childish, but common. It is a slight variation of the "if we'd stopped Hitler in Munich" argument, but it requires a hell of a crystal ball.

Who is to say that if the social democrats used violence in 1918 that they wouldn't have killed even more people than Hitler. I could pretty easily invent scenarios where this would occur. The social democrats, reacting to the anti-German sentiments of England and France, turn to Stalinist Russia to find a political ally. Disgusted with their mistreatment due to the Treaty of Versailles, a German-Russian military alliance forms that throws the world into an even more murderous war -- indeed, probably possessing the same anti-semitic elements of Nazism as Hitler didn't invent German anti-semitism and Stalin was, himself, quite the sponsor of Jewish genocide. Why not that instead of "and they lived happily ever after"? I know that a lot of historians feel that World War II happened, in part, because of unresolved issues of World War I and it was part of the time, unfortunately, to ethnically cleanse populations. A military intervention in German would not have addressed those issues, because they were embedded in the international culture of the time. Or, perhaps, the government of the social democrats would have been as unstable as the Weimar Republic, and the Nazi Party would have come into power, anyway.

More directly, often these little violent insurrections don't turn out as planned. I'm almost 100% if Lenin hadn't started the communist revolution in Russia, and the democracy it supplanted turned out to be tyrannical that Brust would be saying amongst his examples, "If Lenin had taken the chance offered to him . . ." It was impossible to tell at the beginning of the Russian revolution that Stalin would come out on top. Lenin was cut from an entirely different cloth than Stalin, after all. Indeed, the same is true of the Weimar Republic -- there was no way to tell that it would, eventually, produce Hitler. But the assumption that is made is if, y'know, the social democrats had gained power in Germany then everything would have been peachy keen. We don't know that. The history of various revolutions suggests that a large part of the time, things are worse after the revolution.

And it's just that the history of "liberal" military interventions is so . . . bad. They almost never go well, whether it be in the Philipines, Vietnam, Iraq . . . Haiti is a virtual study in the malevolence of supposedly humanitarian interventions. Eventually, it becomes clear that these violent interventions don't help the damn situation. They are the problem, not the solution! But the improbabilities of successful liberal military intervention actually producing peace, and the frequency with which it creates untold horrors, is never touched on by the people who think that mass murder helps a situation.

But, y'know, to justify military intervention it's impossible for someone not to bring up Hitler. They justify their love of violence by saying, "We could have stopped Hitler!" But they never say, "But what would have happened? How do we know that what happened wouldn't have been just as bad, or worse?" The answer is, of course, we don't.

(Indeed, I feel the argument depends on the demonization of Hitler. Hitler was a monster, obviously, but he has been built up into being a monster so bad that we can't imagine a world where there would be a worse monster or more horrible situation. This ignores that, in the 20th century, Hitler was the third biggest mass murderer, not the first. The one and two slots belong, respectively, to Stalin and Mao. And there are other monstrosities that are always left out -- such as the roughly two million Southeast Asians killed during the Vietnam War . . . but I never hear people saying that, you know, if the Republicans had taken the opportunity after the death of JFK, then millions in Southeast Asia would have been saved. But the idea is that Hitler was so bad that anything would have been better, but that's not true, the truth is that we don't know what would have happened and that if a person tries it's pretty easy to imagine more horrific scenarios, such as a war being deferred until Germany had nuclear weaponry.)

For me, well, it seems to me that the real way we should have stopped Hitler is instead of subjecting Germany to a humiliating treaty that stripped them of dignity and all their wealth, we could have tried rebuilding the German economy and included Germany fully in the international community, allowing them to keep their dignity. (One of the things that people forget is the extent to which Germany was ravished by the Treaty of Versailles. During the 20s and 30s, Berlin was an international sex tourism destination, for instance. Fathers were pimping their wives and daughters in the streets! It's the sort of thing that engenders bitterness.) Which is my last argument about the stupidity of saying that Hitler could have been prevented to coming to power through violence. It never addresses the reasons why Hitler was popular in the first damn place! That Hitler's rise to power was because of social conditions that could be predicted and ameliorated non-violently. (Indeed, many people were opposed to the Treaty of Versailles on the grounds that it would merely lay the foundations for a new war.)

Or, people like Brust act as if there was no viable peaceful solution in the years working up to WWII that could have avoided the war, and that any violent option would have avoided the war. Which is in addition to being untestable, barbaric. It is vile to think that violence would have honestly improved the situation and it is vile to not even consider non-violent options as being legitimate. And they never put as much effort into trying to imagine peaceful solutions as violent ones.

But, y'know, pacifists are the problem. *grits my teeth*

Monday, August 6, 2007

Religion and Funerals

It occurred to me the other day how . . . opportunistically religions use funerals. How it's part -- a very important part -- of the scam that religion is. Think about it. Right when a group of people are particularly emotionally vulnerable a priest comes forward and promotes their faith. They cast the life of a human -- frequently a person they don't know at all, I should further point out, save perhaps in the limited context of religious observances which is a very distant and formal association, really -- in purely religious terms. The value of the person's life, and death, rests in the "next world". Isn't that really wicked ghoulish?

Now, obviously, religious people are going to say that, even beyond the existence or non-existence of god or heaven or whatever, religion at a funeral with its pablum about better worlds and eternal life is comforting. First, this is a false dilemma. The argument is that the comfort that religion provides can't be provided, and better, without religion. The choice isn't between no comfort and religion.

Second, it assumes religion is actually comforting. I, myself, do not find it to be comforting, not in the lease. The pablum of a priest and a bunch of sacred words ignores that, well, in virtually all religions that paradise is far from assured. Even as we all tell each other that so-and-so is in heaven, religiously speaking, we are also fearing that they're in hell. After all, we don't know. But I know that, for my own part, even when I was Christian that funerals always were difficult because the same grief that makes us grasp for concepts of non-physical immortality also make us consider the alternative. So, the comfort of religion is, itself, pretty thin -- offering, as it does, both heaven and hell. That your loved one might be roasting in the fires of hell isn't precisely comforting.

Third, there's the predatory element. If I came to a funeral and started preaching politics, saying that so-and-so might have lived if we had public health insurance, most people would think I was really tacky, using that moment to preach politics. But isn't that precisely what happens? Churches are very human institutions. By their presence at a funeral, they're doing what they can to insure the continuation of both their church and religion, generally, by stressing that religion is what's really important when someone dies. To my eyes, this is viciously opportunistic, a kind of sick promotion. And that stuff about grief and comfort is just the mask that religion uses to tart up it's intrusion into people's private grief.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Thoughts on Fantasy and Historical Fiction

I am finding it reasonably challenging to write long projects like Simon Peter. Yeah, I know, I know, who knew that writing a novel might be hard work? One of the biggest problems I face is getting tired of the situation and characters and start to think about different situations and characters. So bad is this that I largely have to avoid reading too many novels, especially in fields different than what I'm writing about, because it can completely destroy my will to write what I need to write -- but to some extent it happens anyway. This post is largely working out this idea that's been getting in Simon Peter's way so I can focus back on that without distractions for a while.

Tho' Simon Peter is definitely a historical fiction, and I am enjoying writing historical fiction, I still primarily regard myself as a science-fiction and fantasy writer, but I've been having a lot of conceptual problems with fantasy for a while, now. The root of the "problem" comes from the reality that most fantasy is, explicitly or not, basically Western Europe in the High Middle Ages with some "system of magic" and a number of monsters fairly crudely slapped on. The magic is generally not particularly well integrated into the social fabric of society, and I find it reasonably tedious (even as I have largely done it) that fantasy "societies" are inevitably some real human culture (or, more often, a pastiche or parody of it).

This creates what a friend of mine coined, to my knowledge, as the generic fantasy template. We all know it. The story takes place in a parody of a Anglo-French feudal monarchy, there are elves in the forests, dwarves in the mountains, and guys in pointy hats know magic. Slight variants of the generic fantasy template rule fantasy with an iron fist.

For a while, now, my mind has been trying to pick out why this is the case. Some of it is enculturation, laziness and expectations. Most fantasy writers I know are, after all, members of what we loosely call Western civilization, so they're inclined to write about things with a Western motif, it's easier to write about Western motifs than to research outside of your culture or come up with something new, and . . . in the end most fantasy audiences expect it and want it.

The same goes with the poor integration of intelligent non-humans and magic into the setting, with some slight twists. For instance, in the GFT, elvish civilization is more advanced than human civilization in all ways -- technologically, magically and culturally. But no fantasy writer I know of writes about human civilization being an aspect of elvish colonization, even when humans actively ape elvish culture and civilization. (I've actually considered writing a fantasy novel where it would be largely about humans trying to free themselves of the thousands of years of elvish cultural imperialism and colonization as a kind of post-colonial fantasy novel and going all out. Y'know, the reason why people think that blond, blue-eyed people are more beautiful is due to their resemblance to elves, and the heroes are all "ugly" people because they're thick-bodied and with dark hair, skin and eyes, with the Aryan aristocracy emplaced by the elves keeping down the non-white humans, armed with elven weapons and such to do it.) But that doesn't happen, just as it never happens that people consider the justice behind, say, slaughtering goblins or orcs, or even the moral and legal issues of attacking a dragon.

Magic is equally poorly grafted on most of the time, without real social consequences. If you can magically heal someone, I mean, that's probably what you'd spend all your time doing, right? Or blessing fields or whatever. It is rarely integrated well into the setting.

(This is not universal, of course. Indeed, I wouldn't mind people giving me novels where all of this is false! I'm all down with people pointing me in the direction of cool books.)

So, I was thinking about how to settle these issues for myself, unique to myself as an artist. What I was tending towards was to write historical fiction with a fantasy element, with the magic and monsters being subtle enough that it might be objectively impossible to say "that was magic" . . . though I found myself then wondering why I wouldn't just write historical fiction. I wasn't sure that the distinction between historical fiction and historical fantasy would be interesting enough to make me write historical fantasy -- I might get too interested in the history.

But I was recently talking with a friend about fantasy role-playing games and what I disliked about a lot of gaming settings, and the same is roughly true of fantasy literature (even a lot of stuff that isn't the GFT). Specifically, we were talking about the Dungeons & Dragons setting of The Forgotten Realms. Forgotten Realms basically defines the generic fantasy template, really, and cranks it to 11. There are wickedly powerful wizards, awesomely powerful supernatural creatures, thousands of years of advanced non-human civilizations and loads of literally divine intervention, but human society managed to look superficially like northwestern Europe, and is the politically dominate force in the setting.

Part of what drives me batty about the setting is how it tries to ecologically justify things. A monster is never a freak of nature that exists, as they often did in mythology, for instance, on a remote island or as a single creature -- but there are whole species of them, with mating habits, society, culture. Which just worsens it all, because they're all these little independent things that have little bearing with each other, each considered in a weird vacuum!

During the course of the conversation about fantasy settings, I opined that I'd much prefer that monsters be freaks of nature one-shots -- and given the structure of D&D where there are literally hundreds of different monsters and scant reason to reuse most of them, this isn't even a problem -- or having a small number of them living in some remote location than try to justify a global ecology and economy and political structure as poorly as Forgotten Realms does it, constantly drawing my attention to how very stupid the setting is on whole.

So, I started to think about a setting where the world doesn't have the same base presumptions of our own world. What came to my mind was a game my wife ran for a while set in the Dreamlands (the one invented by H.P. Lovecraft). In the Dreamlands, you never worried about how things "really were". Why was there an ancient city in the jungle? Because ancient cities in jungles are . . . dreamy. You don't have to even try to follow the logic present in the material world. The Dreamlands follows dream logic.

Which got my mind working about a setting where, well,the operating principle wasn't what the various laws of physics might decide would happen, because there aren't any objective physical laws, but the universe would reward people for creating interesting narratives in the same way that our universe rewards people who tease out "the way things work".

So, a merchant who tried to prosaically find the wind and wave to create a reliable trade route would fail, or come back with paltry pickings, but the person who sailed off to explore the strange worlds beyond the edge of the ocean would come back laden down with loot. The same would be true of everything. An architect would try to make every building a statement because, well, that's more interesting than identical, prosaic buildings -- the universe would find that less interesting than a unique structure built of great passion.

And then I imagined that there would be ancient and alien narratives still hanging around. That the narratives of the protagonists -- which would be largely human narratives because I am a human -- might act in opposition to these alien narratives that are much older and, potentially, of greater significance than what humans think is interesting.

I acknowledge that there is a metafiction element to this. What determines "what should happen" is literally my thoughts about what constitutes "interesting" to the audience, that the narrative logic is an artificial construct of interesting determined by my private interpretation of modern American culture. I'm feeling terribly modern, hehe. I'm also thinking that . . . this has been coming for a while, artistically speaking. In some ways, I'm creating a justification to write like superhero comic book writers -- where "what would really happen" almost always comes in a distance second to "what is interesting to happen".

I've also been realizing that part of the function of human consciousness will create a narrative out of any facts that are presented. Consider conspiracy theory. A conspiratologist will take statements (many of them not facts, even) that are logically unrelated to each other and create a narrative out of them. Thus the innumerable bizarre theories concerning the assassination of John Kennedy, or even the American public's initial acceptance of the administration's narrative that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction" even over the objections of the UN arms inspectors that were in the best position to know. Statements were presented in proximity to each other and people's minds just created a narrative. Meaning is something humans insert into a narrative. So, by presenting a number of statements in proximity to each other, I hope to create a compelling fantasy narrative despite the proposed narrative making no real sense at all.

So, when I'm done with Simon Peter, I suspect I'll be writing a couple of proof of concept stories to see how it works out.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

More on Catholic Rape Insurance Scandal!

An LJ friend said that perhaps the insurance that covered the child rape might be an horrible mistake on the insurer's part. That the Catholic Church had a general liability policy that just happened to cover children being raped by priests, too, though unintentionally.

I didn't think so, because the way that I understood it, after a certain time period elapsed the insurer could cancel coverage -- insurance companies generally leave the option over to drop coverage. But I thought it was a good question. Does the Catholic Church have liability insurance to specifically cover sexual abuse?

Well, amusing things first. When you google "catholic church and rape liability" my own article is what comes up. Yay, me, I guess. But you find some other stuff, too, such as this Slate article. Allow me to quote:

Since the spike in sex-abuse lawsuits in the mid-1980s, churches have also had the option to take out extra liability policies for damages related to sexual misconduct. These policies don't come cheap, and they protect just the institutions, for the most part. Insurers will mount a legal defense for accused individuals, but the support extends only so far: Perpetrators are on their own if they're found guilty or choose to settle out of court.

But insurance companies created these abuse-specific policies only after the lawsuits of the mid-80s forced them to make large payouts. Until then, general liability policies didn't specifically rule out sex abuse, so churches that needed to pay damages argued that insurers should pay. Thus, even though sex-abuse insurance is available today, many of the big payouts actually come from the churches' general policies, since the abuse happened decades ago. (The Los Angeles settlement probably came out of these general policies.)

So, according to Slate, we were both right. Initially, sex abuse of this nature was paid for out of general liability policies, but nowadays people can get sex abuse policies. Churches do get them. The Slate article has some specifics, even -- say, $100 a year for a small church with a single pastor, or $6,000 a year for a big church with a day care center. The average liability covered is $100,000.

It also mentions that the Catholic Church has it's own insurance company, Catholic Mutual, and half of the Catholic churches in America get their insurance through this system. Take that as you will.

The article ends up mentioning that many of the archdioceses that face these settlements are, nevertheless, facing bankruptcy due to the large payouts. Take that, too, as you will, but for me it feels very insufficient given the extreme and systematic nature of the crimes, but I believe in both corporate death penalties (the government seizing corporate assets if the corporation obviously and systematically is corrupt, as determined by a court of law) and I believe in treating religious organizations no differently than secular ones.

Post-script: Here's another article about the Catholic church's rape and insurance scandal, and a hat tip to Symboid for bringing it to my attention. One of the things it does is point out that Catholicism is hardly alone in the sex abuse cover-ups, but let's have a quote:

These types of policies started coming into existence after the court case Hanover Insurance Co. vs. Crocker in the 1980s. In the case, Mrs. Crocker's husband was accused of the sexual abuse of a child. She was aware of the abuse but neglected to report it to the authorities. She was charged with neglect, but her lawyer found a loophole in her homeowner's insurance policy that the court ruled to be an indication that the insurance company was responsible for covering her monetary settlement.

So now we have sexual abuse insurance coverage? These types of insurance policies are like a slap in the face to the victims. I understand that they are a smart move for businesses to take advantage of in case an employee gets into that kind of unforgivable trouble, but the mere fact that they exist holds to the idea that these types of offenses can be settled by the stroke of an insurance executive's pen on a checkbook.

I agree it's a slap in the face to the victims.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Child Rape, the Catholic Church and Six Hundred and Sixty Million Dollars

As I have been repeatedly told in the not too recent past, the Catholic Church is the one, true church of Christ and all the rest are defective. Well, the one, true church of Jesus Christ is paying out six hundred and sixty million dollars because it's one, true priests raped children in an out of court settlement designed to protect the church from the public testimony of their victims, not to mention the way that the Catholic Church covered up child raping priests for decades and has done everything in their power to stymie bringing the attackers to criminal court. All of that is disgusting enough, and one would think demonstrates the absurdity of Christian institutions saying they have some sort of moral superiority, or that their people are somehow elect or blessed or that some benevolent god works through them -- their church is a haven for pedophiles and, institutionally, the Catholic Church has covered up their crimes. (If some Protestants out there are gonna point the finger at Catholics, don't. Protestant churches are just as bad, it's just that the Catholics are the biggest target and most clearly represent this sort of thing because of the sheer size of the Catholic Church.) Like I said, that's all disgusting enough, but my purpose here isn't simply to bash Christians for their manifest hypocrisy, or goad them into talking on this blog so we can see the double-talk they use to justify why so obviously a corrupt institution as the Catholic Church can, nevertheless, be the special receptacle for Jehovah's divine and benevolent grace.

No, no, I want to bring something else up. The article about the settlement has a couple of interesting lines. The first:

The archdiocese, the nation’s largest, will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million.

It's a short quote,but I wanted it to stand out a little bit. Here's the other one that I found fascinating:

The deal settles all 508 cases that remained against the archdiocese, which also paid $60 million in December to settle 45 cases that weren’t covered by sexual abuse insurance.

The key words there, for me, are insurance and, then, sexual abuse insurance. The Catholic Church in LA has . . . sexual abuse insurance. Sexual abuse insurance.

This is wrong on so many different levels I really don't know where to start . . . but after grappling with it, I came down to two things that really bake my noodle. The first is that you can buy sexual abuse insurance. The second is that someone actually bought sexual abuse insurance.

This is just killing me. That there are companies -- no, no, companies do nothing, there are people who said, "Oh, yeah, we're willing to give you liability coverage in case someone in your institution rapes children. We're comfortable making a profit off of helping your institution protect itself from punishments you'd get from systematic child abuse on a monstrous scale and your morally indefensible cover-ups of these crimes." I mean, even beyond the legality of something like this, the simple morality of it. Some people, and probably a group of people, decided that, yes, it is okay to make money protecting institutions from their systematic child molestation. This boggles my mind.

The second part of my near death experience is that the Catholic Church sought out this kind of insurance. You only get insurance against events you think might actually happen, and we know with the same certainty that the sun sets in the west that priests are, in the course of time, going to rape little children -- and one of their techniques of handling this abuse is to . . . get insurance to cover it. It is so cynical and does nothing to address the problem of why the Catholic Church is such a haven for this kind of abuse. Much less doing something to stop it.

And, lastly, when I was talking about this with a guy, when I pointed out the horror of child rape insurance, I was stunned to find that at least some people -- regular people off the streets -- would defend the existence of child rape insurance. It is, I was told, merely a form of liability insurance. The person I spoke with likened it to liability insurance if someone fell on some steps in front of the church, which is where my brain broke, again. That the widespread rape and systematic cover-up of these rapes was being seriously likened to a priest failing to sweep all the snow off the steps in front of a church. Over and above the existence of liability insurance -- which I am no fan of, I think that all insurance companies should be shut down and insurance should be honestly public -- I was totally mind-fried by the idea that a real person would seriously liken widespread child rape and its cover-up to falling down some stairs.

Anyway, that's my rant. My mind is temporarily broken. My next bit will be a rather interesting bit about science and the evolution of intelligence that might actually be semi-original, but I need to check some facts, first.