2013 Week 25: Good Things I Saw On The Internet

I don’t know what a “rising junior” is but I hope it means someone in a post-doc programme because this piece on “vocation” by the Calvin College student Hannah Meijers is so fantastic that you should go now and savour every word.

Disciplines, after all, aren’t mountains for bright young things to master. They are things you submit to. You let them tell you how to form your sentences, and structure your arguments. You read their canons and learn their own unique nuances and contentions. In turn, they allow you to see the world in new and exciting ways. They give you the shoulders of giants to stand on and roots that stretch deep into history.

An exhilirating interview with a US soldier who is discovering that the way of Jesus is the way of non-violence:

“I just can’t picture Jesus picking up a gun and heading over to the middle-east and killing people.”

Out of the blue this statement had come back into my mind and it wouldn’t go away. Over the next several weeks of leave I woke up several times in the night. Every time I woke up that phrase was playing in my mind. I couldn’t get rid of it! It was at this point that I felt I should give a second look to the issue of nonviolence, that perhaps God was saying something to me.

From the peerless Quiet Babylon, “an attempt to understand the geography of a drone strike”:

On October 24, 2012, Bibi Mamana and her grandchildren were gathering firewood or picking okra outside their home. They may have been in a field. Perhaps it was a militant compound with a weapons depot. 2 missiles were fired, killing Mamana and up to 5 other people, injuring 6 to 8 of the children. Some other men, maybe 3, maybe militants, may have been caught in the blast. A house and a car may or may not have been destroyed. Either 3 cows or 1 buffalo and 2 goats were also killed. The drones remained overhead and 5 to 7 minutes after the first strike more missiles fell.

This moment—the drones, the missiles, the people, the livestock—is a node in a vast network. It spans the globe, connecting villages to secret installations to office parks to seats of government. It reaches backwards for millenia and will resonate forwards for untold centuries. To trace it out completely is impossible. We are hampered by its size and by the fact that much of it is hidden behind classified protections and some of the rest is barely recorded at all.

What is it to write well? Marilynne Robinson says:

But it’s finding access into your life more deeply than you would otherwise. Consider this incredibly brief, incredibly strange experience that we have as this hypersensitive creature on a tiny planet in the middle of somewhere that looks a lot like nowhere. It’s assigning an appropriate value to the uniqueness of our situation and every individual situation.

“Assigning an appropriate value to the uniqueness of our situation and every individual situation” might be a definition of what it means to live life as a Calvinist.

The first banknote.

If you are Irish, the idea that you are relatively well paid compared to other economies is dependent on the fact that you not poor. In other words, Ireland’s ongoing descent into full scale economic class warfare continues.

Finally, this is the best response to PRISM I have yet encountered.

The first thing I did after I heard about the highly classified NSA PRISM program two years ago was set up a proxy server in Peshawar to email me passages from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. A literary flight of fancy. I started sending back excerpts from Gerard Manley Hopkins poems.

Your Correspondent, Loves maths so much that when he takes a dump, it actually comes out as a 2

What If The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Bombs Played Little Role In Ending World War II?

This article seems to me to be a cogent defeater of the last (yet still morally pathetic) argument in favour of the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

From our perspective, Hiroshima seems singular, extraordinary. But if you put yourself in the shoes of Japan’s leaders in the three weeks leading up to the attack on Hiroshima, the picture is considerably different. If you were one of the key members of Japan’s government in late July and early August, your experience of city bombing would have been something like this: On the morning of July 17, you would have been greeted by reports that during the night four cities had been attacked: Oita, Hiratsuka, Numazu, and Kuwana. Of these, Oita and Hiratsuka were more than 50 percent destroyed. Kuwana was more than 75 percent destroyed and Numazu was hit even more severely, with something like 90 percent of the city burned to the ground.

Three days later you have woken to find that three more cities had been attacked. Fukui was more than 80 percent destroyed. A week later and three more cities have been attacked during the night. Two days later and six more cities were attacked in one night, including Ichinomiya, which was 75 percent destroyed. On August 2, you would have arrived at the office to reports that four more cities have been attacked. And the reports would have included the information that Toyama (roughly the size of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1945), had been 99.5 percent destroyed. Virtually the entire city had been leveled. Four days later and four more cities have been attacked. On August 6, only one city, Hiroshima, was attacked but reports say that the damage was great and a new type bomb was used. How much would this one new attack have stood out against the background of city destruction that had been going on for weeks?

As good a time as any to listen to Ireland’s greatest contemporary folk prophet sing of “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette”.

Your Correspondent, They call it security, he calls it suicide.