Goodness gracious I have only just gotten to the third week of classes and already I find myself behind on nearly everything. I think somewhere in the transition between Junior and Senior year, the number of activities which require my full, complete, undivided attention hit some kind of asymptotic line. The crazy part is that I’m not even taking part in a lot of the events or groups going on here at campus. I have only mailing list membership of a lot of clubs and campus activities because, well, I feel busy, ha ha ha. Which is actually really rather an interesting thing to be saying right now. Sitting down to my computer. Writing a blog about…daily life on campus.
Which is apparently the purpose, so that you (my general online audience) will know what is like to spend a day in the life of a UPS student. So what did I do today? I suppose that is honestly the best place to start on a blog about daily life, isn’t it?
I woke up. Nearly four hours later than when I usually get up. But then again, I normally go to bed about four hours earlier than I did last night. Procrastination for the win! Ah, good heavens, is anyone asleep by now? I have I chased you away from any desire in reading this nonsense? Ok. Better plan.
My one and only class on Thursday’s is the 400 seminar course ‘Religion and Violence’ with Greta Austin (not to be confused with Great Austin, as my dyslexic fingers seem intent upon naming her). The 400 levels in the religion department are meant to be capstone courses for the Religion major seniors, and require a 25 page research paper upon completion of the course. Cony, you are being boring again. Ok. Course aside, how cool is it to be talking about violence, God, politics, religion, morals, peace, unibombers and youtube videos all at once?!
We split into groups of about five students to discuss particular chapters from last nights reading together, and report to the class the highlights of the text. My solitary group of three were to mull over the final chapter, where five different policy solutions to religious violence were suggested. Do we fight fire with fire? Simply squelch the extremist position and wipe it off like a stain? (I hear dissent! quick, turn off the microphone!) Do we let them destroy themselves, by allowing them to terrify themselves with their own terror? (the Lord have Mercy! What have we done?!) Do we take the moral high road, and emasculate their cause? (Change you say? I can put Change in my platform too…). How about subsuming extremeism into the mainstream, and diluting it with moderate concerns? (Tentatively sending envoys to the TeaParty, coaxing them to the ballot…hoping they won’t stampede…).
There are of course, merits and disadvantages to all of the above, and our group of three couldn’t settle on a single point. We started our own mild argument. Can the state remain fundamentally religiously neutral? Even with a large demographic clamoring for it to be much more pervasive in government? Would it be better to publically acknowledge and accept that demographic, and nip the momentous movement behind it in the bud, before it can really get rolling and call for actual revolution? Is revolution really even at stake?
wait wait wait! We are here to discuss the book. And not even the book. Just the chapter from the book. Lets settle down a little bit and look at what we are. For one, we are not Politics majors, so let us let them talk about public policy. What we are here for is understanding the relationship between religion, the religious rhetoric employed, and the violent actions undertaken by a minority fraction of the human race. *Deep sigh* Ok. That gets us…almost where we started. ha ha ha ha. Ah, but it was such great fun talking!
Our group sessions were concluded, and the class was brought back together to report on what our groups had to say. (I don’t really feel like providing the minutes of the meeting, as though I was some secretary, so please, just fill in with your imagination so that I can get to what I want to talk about). Cool.
But all through class were repeatedly encountered that religious violence is almost always grounded in the idea that the violence is being perpetrated in an act of defense in a raging, cosmic war. The revolution has already started, and there are only those too blind to see it (er, like you and me). Cosmic war, eh? The ongoing struggle between Good and Evil. You know, I think we can all relate (not that I am asking you to sympathize with abortion clinic bombers…but I am. Just for the sake of this thought, for a moment). Really though, what is it that is so seductive about a cosmic war between the forces of Good and Evil, where the “Good guys are always outnumbered, and the Good guys always win!” (quoted from our in-class documentary viewing). Why is it that we are so drawn to stories like Jedi v Sith, US v USSR, Harry Potter v HeWhoMustNotBeNamed? Why is it so much harder for shades of grey to become instant generational icons (Looking at you, District 9. I love you, but so many people … are uncomfortable with uncomfortably unsympathetic sympathetic anti-heroes). My house mate rants and raves with disgust and defeat against the monumental popularity of Avatar (the evil villain had no motivation but to be an evil villain! I mean come on, who buys that?! What happened to, you know, reason?), but it won’t tarnish the fact that we like having the line drawn in the sand.
Besides, Cosmic Battles of Good and Evil transcend so many obnoxious daily things. Like the fact I’m not doing my homework right now, or that I will have to pee terribly after I down my eighth cup of tea. And what kind of Holly-wood blockbuster would cast Jane Normal when you can dress up Dr. Evil in spandex and give a giant mystical sword of +20 damage to Loner Hero so that he might save the world and get the girl.
Wait wait wait, am I suggesting that religious violence is a form of escapism? But wait, all of this escapism is prevalent in secular society as well…ermm…hmmm…maybe none of us has the answer, but we would all like to think that we do, or at least think that someone else does, reassuring ourselves that if we seek long and hard enough, somewhere, sometime, there will be an answer. Or at least a really really really good theory. Maybe.