Why Ben Affleck Is Right & Bill Maher is Wrong

“Islam, at the moment, is the motherlode of bad ideas.” – Sam Harris

Montesquieu argued further, “…The laws have a lot to do with the manner in which
different people procure their subsistence”

Race is defined, particularly in its US and Nazi versions, by the genetic composition of the
individual. – Shein

You’ve probably been following conversation that erupted between actor Ben Affleck and TV comedic pundit Bill Maher (and sidekick Sam Harris) that made waves on social media and still are. In the video, seen below, Ben Affleck chastises the words of Bill Maher and Harris who make generalizations about Islam, making such comments as the above from Harris. Like Reza Aslan says, it is not that religion is violent, but that violent people are violent. That religion becomes a screen upon which violent people project to justify their violence. Also, to make such a blanket statement about all of Islam is to dismiss those who don’t fit in this category.

What are generalizations if not predetermined caricatures that are socially assumed to be agreed upon and given authority as truth-statements. Most generalizations are subjectively made. If you walk down the street and randomly get into a fight, you might then make the claim or assumption that that street is dangerous to walk down. This is itself the limitations of generalizations, it doesn’t account for anything outside of a closed system/experience. There is no serendipity. Also, when race and religion are treated hierarchically, as if one is better than the other, then we have to address the power involved in displacing one religion over another. Hierarchy is simply a system designed to enforce order and homogenize everyone involved into normalizing the individual. The idea of making violence intrinsic to a religion or a race or a group is the attempt to dismiss any value of people groups, religion, race and difference.

Western Multiculturalism has come to mean: Respect me in the way I am comfortable or I will take you to court. We have come to legislate comfort. But, what is so discomforting about people being too close, about people having opinions about us? why is it so horrific? A french Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan once called this moment where words lost all meaning and usage, the Real, its like sitting and watching a horror and all you can do is jump, or gasp but that moment  is so scary all we can do is try to distant ourselves from it. this is a hint into why in the West, people are so protective of their identities, because its too close to the truth that we have no identity at all.

 I wonder if the current state of some sects in Islam is not do to just some misintepretative readings in the Quran, but also some is due to the western media being a placeholder for Islam to fall into a self-fulfilled prophecy….you know when the person who says, they’re going to fail actually fails, they fall into the trap of believing what they have set themselves up for. I am not saying we need to be cavalier in how we address, Islam, or racism but we need to be more careful in how we understand each of these terms. Like theorist Naomi Zack concludes, the only way to end racism, is to end the idea of race. Race and who we are are two very different things. To equate race to the physical appearance, doesn’t take into account the universal race called: humanity.  The way we understand identity today has been controlled by capitalism and the American Dream. Which feed off of us needing to hold tightly to our ideas. Globalization has a hand in circumnavigating this kind of ideology. Sufi’s, the mystical arm of Islam is rife with poets and mystics who understood the need to absolve ourselves of identity. Dont get me wrong, capitalism isn’t the only issue here.  When we speak of race, I am not saying we somehow deny our bio-geographical heritages, but that we disavow the social conditioning of how we have come to understand it.
Ben Affleck’s disgust is exactly how we all should be responding. But his response that Islamophobic statements are gross and offensive are also indicative of something much larger. The problem with the Left today, which is that we depend upon caricatures to defend our stance.That Maher represents the lazy side of Leftist thought. Also, Affleck represents another side of false multi-culturalism, the part where we somehow need to prohibit the way we critique one another. There is something to be said about choosing one’s words wisely, but not at the expense of the value of the critique itself. Multiculturalism doesn’t mean walking on egg shells, it means the ability to critique- without generalizations. Onto Religion….
If there is any true religion, it’s the religion of our conditioning, of our upbringing, environment and education. This tells us what we believe. This is the term we should use when we speak of religion. One’s experience of some metaphysical being, or the metaphysicality of language should not be reduced to a system of conditioning. Religion is all around us, metaphysical or materialist. It is simply how we are conditioned and the beliefs we hold so dear. To minimise it down to an interpretation of the Quran and spirituality creates an unnecessary tension between the two. When we speak of religion In an abstract sense, we do violence to the context that has emerged. To say things like all Islam is bad because of the way the media represents Islam is to cheapen those who are attempting to reform it from within, (ie Irshad Manji and etc.).
Philosopher Slavoj Zizek once made the point that true multiculturalism is the ability to criticize one on their beliefs and practices without absolute recoil. Today that kind if multiculturalism exists nowhere. Critique is necessary to develop a healthy view of ones self. Let’s not be too lazy here and just dismiss this as ideological. Sure, ideas play a large part in how we develop ourselves, ethics and identities, but we can’t minimize the reality that culture has a hand in developing those ideas. The fact that we live in a Western country gives this argument a geographic dimension. Where in this country, the right to personal speech is a neglected luxury, meaning, we take it for granted. Some countries, as we know, don’t have this luxury.
This was referred to in the Maher/Affleck discussion. But what has free speech really come to mean? The privatization of words to the point that one takes ownership of those words, and that the words chosen can also be legislated to the point that if the words become public and can be considered offensive then the person might be incarcerated. So, really, it’s not free speech afterall, there are limits. There are limits to what we are allowed to say. Which brings this discussion back around to the pseudo-multiculturalism. The idea that to respect someone we must somehow not speak critically of what someone believes or how they believe or how they treat others because of it and etc. is quite a shortsighted definition. We need to be critical of ourselves and one another. No one is untouchable.

This is the problem in our current state of anemic democracy, we’ve turned the roles into god-like roles, where it’s become taboo to say certain thing about people and their actions. This is the deepest form of disrespect, because it refuses to engage with the person and attempt to sustain the role that the person is filling as some sort of divine role, which isn’t that far from our paleolithic beginnings. When Affleck brings up the fact that Maher is generalizing, this right here, as Leftists is where we need to listen. It’s this critique that exposes the very problem with a lot of leftist thought today, namely that it has come to mirror that of Conservative discourse and has learned to try to scare people into agreement.

By abstracting Islam, faith and religion, it then turns the humans involved in that religion into victims of their belief system. There is no responsibility to choice, and human agency. It just lazily turns them into monsters and automatons. Leftist fundamentalism is no different than fundamentalism on the right, mainly due to the fact that t defines itself against conservative ideology which gives leftist thought its very coordinates for disagreement.

. This is irresponsible….


Violence begets violence, not Islam begets violence…..

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek once made the point that true multiculturalism is the ability to criticise one on their beliefs and practices without absolute recoil. Today that kind of multiculturalism exists nowhere. Critique is necessary to develop a healthy view of ones self and reality. In this interview, Ben Affleck and Bill Maher were both right and both wrong. But both become a critique on the plight of leftism today. That race, religion, geography, history are not easy caricatures. That the politics of the Left need to step up their game. That if anything is going to change on how we address issues like violence, religion, Islam and identity we have to move beyond the gaze of the media. The media cannot have the last word on how we believe.

One comment

  1. Greg Mullaley · October 27, 2014

    Religion is an excuse for not thinking for yourself and handing over your moral compass to some wandering desert tribesmen who think they heard voices. Today we treat people who think and behave like this with medications and/or hospitalization. Religion has been a true hindrance to a brighter future and a peaceful world ruled by science, reason, and true humanistic compassion.


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