måndag 31 maj 2010

Israel's attack on International Waters

I take it from Twittering Swedish parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan, the Israeli attack was carried out on international waters, aproximately 800 km out from the coast. Check out the Twitter flow of Mehmet Kaplan ... which has now gone silent, because he has been inprisoned together with one of Sweden's foremost fiction writers Henning Mankell and other prominent people. (This is by no means your usual radical youth activists, these are some serious serious people we're talking about, taking part in this humanitarian mission.)

Also, get informed regarding what the shipment contains and why: click here

söndag 30 maj 2010


Now the first Pinku Vääty release is up on Spotify. Only took the guys 6 weeks after release. Way to go. Anyway, to celebrate this re-issue of an ancient release from the very beginning of the Rakkaus catalogue *lol*, here is a playlist with some technoid cuts for you all to enjoy. Some new and some older. But definitely nothing from the last six weeks. :)


Rakkaus Rekkomends (open with Spotify)



fredag 28 maj 2010

Religious Sciences & Theology / Empirical Research & Political Ideology (3/3)

So, after having discussed Philosophy of Science, and the involvement of pre-empirical presuppositions in Science and later politics, I would now like to expand on the third part of my proposal of studying religion and politics as a joint field - as if they are the same - and what implications this would have.

But for those of you who haven't read the first two parts, here are the links so you can catch up.

Now, once you've caught up on the previous reading material, let's get started. :)

When I say that politics is based on pre-empirical notions of what it is to be human, and how we ought to live, this doesn't mean that politics doesn't deal with science at all. On the contrary, the state comission surveys and expert research in various field all the time. In Sweden these are called Statens Offentliga Utredningar (SOU) and are ways in which the state collects data in order to make a more informed decision. But (as reader of the first part will know) the question here is off course: how does one decide what research to comission in the first place? As I've argued previously what guides science in this case can be summed up as finding out how we can best implement our ideology in the current society.

There may be research on the table that may be discussed, but what it says will always be weighed against what the political party is trying to achieve; i.e. (taking a purely hypothetical example) getting grades from an early age in schools seem to encourage students to work harder but also apply more stress - now, how do we as social democrats approach this empirical evidence, in order to make society more equal, and generally more educated? Or taking a more sinister turn, the case may be that social democrats comissioned the reserach, and are only interested in early grades effect on education - and not in the least on how it affect students' stress levels; then this may not even be a parameter measured in the survey!

So what about religion? In Sweden, academic theology is not to be confessional. This means, that it is set on par with religious sciences in general, where the question of truthclaims within religion, is not judged (how can it, empirically?), but instead what is studied is part of (for example) Christianity: its history, sociology, psychology och religion, dogma and systematic theology, etc. More then seldom I've come across (both in litterature and verbally) people claiming that when religious science gets too interested or attached to a subject matter, it becomes poor religious science, which to many scholars equals theology. The distinction here is one where some scholars try to claim that they are utterly objective, but is that really possible? Again, lets remember what I wrote in the first part about all this - that what questions science engages in rests upon an idea of what things are worthwhile spending time on in life, in the first place. If we were to take scholars argument of total objectiveness this means that they really have no interest in the subject at all - because you cannot be both objective and attached to a question at the same time. If you are utterly objective, it wouldn't matter to you, whether you were researching the field of Islamology, Cancer, or how to produce a seedless watermelon.

What I'm trying to say here is not that science is worth less, because people don't deliver on the strictest form of objectivity. On the contrary, I think it's imperative for science to be guided by passions, ideas about how to make things (society, life, stuff in general) better, and last but not least; morals. A science without morals is a science that can lend its expertise to anything; You want me to build an atombomb? - Pay me, and I'll do it! I don't care who you use it on, I'm just a scientist, and the science of making an atombomb has nothing to do with then using the finished product! It is not that science hasn't operated this way some times, but the point is that it shouldn't. Especially, science can't extricate itself from being complicit in the things it has been an instrumental part in producing, and the results of such a production. The same goes for the production of information really. If a survey states that all members of group x hate group y, then this will have an impact on society. Group x may be looked upon with disgust and group y may all of a sudden recieve police protection, or new laws may be passed to support or supress one or the other... You get my point.

As you may have gathered by now, my general argument points to the likeness or correspondance between politics and religion. In politics we can separate ideology from SOU's - although SOU's are always guided by the morals and ideas in ideology. Similarily, theology and religious science have the same connection. Although, if it's not theology (with its morals and ideas) guiding religious science, there is always something else - and here is where it gets really interesting!

Above I wrote that Swedish academic theology and religious studies are non-confessional. So what are they guided by? The answer is politics. Every year there are new directives from the state, regarding how science should be done and taught. And when its not leaning directly on the curriculum - such as: all courses in religion/theology are "miljömärkta" at University of Gothenburg and must discuss ecological questions. (You can really se how this is helpful for a course in the History of Early Christianity, can't you?!) - it's governed by what institutions gets funding. For instance, more than once in my academic career, there has been no new doctorate studies-position offered. This means that no one can recieve a higher education than a masters level in all of Gothenburg that year - on any topic relating to religion! Instead, money are directed towards other disciplines; technology of different sorts tends to be hugely favored over humanities in general. This is for sure a way in which ideology guides science, and not only the science it comissions but ALL science in a community.

My focus is not to moan at humanities being overlooked as an academic discipline. However, my suggestion of leveling the playing field of political ideology and religion, based on accepting that both categories deal in the "currency" of what life is about, what it is to be human, and what society we want to create. I believe that this would create a discourse (societal and academic) where we accept that science never leave the arena of poligion (the name I suggested for the field), but are always guided by it - and that this is as it should be. The implication is also that different perspectives from religions and ideologies can be discussed, mixed, sometimes discarded and sometimes accepted.

This is also a way of saying that the Swedish (for instance) historic legacy is not one of suchandsuch. It is a "poligious" syncretism where Roman jurisprudence, protestantism, socialism, marxism, liberalism, feminism, and other poligions have been instrumental guiding principles that are by now so intertwined that it is often hard to separate what is what anymore. This, I believe, is also a positive thing, because it sheds light on the fact that Sweden has more than one "culture" informing it. This, most likely, is a perspective where it is less intimidating to let new/other actors on to the stage; such as biologism, islam(ism), confusianism (given Chinas rising influence in the world) etc... It makes us more open to realize that these "systems" are not entities trying to replace the "totality" of Swedish culture, but merely to challenge things, in the instances where we have given certain cultural feats priority over others without realizing it or why (such as politics over religion). In short, the perspective of poligion makes for a less frightening world, with a more generous measure of equality.


You can also read slightly shorter text by me on twitter.com/jonatanbackelie :)

torsdag 27 maj 2010

You wanna be a role?

This is off course a paraphrase of Tyra Banks' quote in the vinaette of America's Next Top Model. I think the concept of role models is a bit ascew these days (if it's ever been not-ascew remains a valid question). Maybe we ought to challenge this idea on the whole. Let's break it down. Sometimes when Britney Spears (yes, I'm aware of a person called that) have been out shaving her head, breaking up, getting drunk, this that and the other, she's put in question for setting a bad example for young girls; she's not a good role model.

The question I want to pose is: what happened with the concept of role within the concept of role model? A role can off course be elaborated in various ways. However, one common conception is the likeness to what a role means in a movie - it's portraiting someone with specific traits. In this sense, picking up a role, is trying to portrait (fictious) behavior modeled on someone. With this line of argument it follows that anyone following the example of such a role model, exhibits a behavior that isn't genuine to their own character.

However, if we widen our understanding of role within role model, we can discuss how indentity is constructed both through social structures and (both positive and negative) pressures, but also through external sources of inspiration that is not present in the individuals immediate environment. With the help of such a concept, we can choose parts of Britney Spears actions, deeds and accomplishments to implement into our own behavior. Let's say that the two feats that Britney displays that isn't present in my immediate surroundings is (1) being able to sing and (2) disorderly drunken behavior. Both of these will be possible to pick up from this external (outside the family and other structures) source of inspiration (Britney). The question is however with what ease we can add these to our roster of characteristics. Probably the (presumably it's a young) individual we're talking about, will try to "feel out" how much resistance the immediate group displays towards these both feats of Britney's, and if both seem appealing and both also seem unoffensive to the group, there's a pretty good chance that the individual will pick these up. However, if drunken behavior isn't accepted or a frequent part of the immediate surroundings, chances are that that part of Britney's actions will not be implemented.

This probably seems relatively straight forward, however, what we also do here is that we choose who Britney is. We choose one of her feats as something aspiring, and we combine this with a row of other feats that has nothing to do with her. In this sense, we isolate Britney-for-us as a singer, not an examplary mother, party girl, or academic exemple to aspire to. All the different people we meet through every day interaction, social media, television etc, essentially work in the same way. We choose what we want to pick up on. This gives us a quite unique set of feats that is combined to a person - you.

The last thought I wanna pursue here, is my attitude regarding these different roles (and the people we model ourselves after). The main problem is not "snatching" feats from here and there, but more so trying to make everything to fit in one person. For instance, I have various ideas, thoughts, feelings, an different people that have inspired me in different areas of life. But what I don't want to do, is try to put one of my feats as the most important characteristic of me. For example, if I postulate that my being a Christian is the most important characteristic, this puts me in danger of thinking that I can probably not get along with i.e. Muslims, Jews or Buddhists, who have this essentially different character. This is tied in with the second danger I see. If you see yourself as role-X-first (i.e. Christian) you run the risk of being extra sensitive to other people's attempts to fill that role with their impression of what it is to be a X (i.e. Christian). The danger then, is that you try to model your different feats and sources of inspirations, not in a way that you yourself is comfortable with, but that corresponds to someone elses version of your "top-role". My experience is that identity/identities are much more fluid than this, and that this is a really positive thing. If we let our identities be slightly disorganized - instead of hierarchial - we are better equipped to face today's world of pluralism, and enjoy it; rather than seeing it as a threat towards your "main" identity.

tisdag 25 maj 2010

The stupid-bracelet

You know the "WWJD"-bracelet (What Would Jesus Do?) - I would like to rename it. I would like to call it the stupid-bracelet. Either that, or your extremely well educated. I, for once, who have read a decent bit more than the next guy regarding the life of Jesus (and incidentally believe in him as the son of God), would never be able to look at that bracelet and go "aha, now I know exactly what to do!". For instance, you're a gay woman ready to come out of the closet (a situation that would be considered a question in need of some pondering in some christian circuits) and you look down at your WWJD-bracelet... Useless guidance! There is not single gay woman in the whole of the Bible. There are only gay men, and the homosexuality referred to is (the general consensus goes) that of old men and young boys. (Homosexuality as a way of being married and staying faithful to one person, was an unknown concept for the Roman society in which the Bible was compiled and edited.) Given that we want some guidance on Jesus' particular action, there has to be some interaction with Jesus that indicates what would he would've done. And when you think about it, most situations of today doesn't have a prejudicating case that involves Jesus.

A distinction is called for here. The problem with this bracelet is that what would Jesus do seem to be a metaphor for what would my church community expect from me. As historians, anthropologians, theologians and christians we commonly don't know enough about the contexts in which Jesus interacted with people. And with this lack of knowledge makes it impossible for (almost) anyone to actually get a rough idea of what Jesus would really do in a situation.

Furthermore, what Jesus - aka God - would do or not is not transferrable to mortal humans - aka not God. For instance, Jesus never married - but that doesn't mean that you ought to say no to your spouse-to-be at the altar. Jesus never had sex with anyone as far as we know, that doesn't mean that everyone is supposed to live in celibacy and become munks/nuns (and quickly end the history of Christianity, as no more Christians are born - mission however effective would not suffice to cover the death tolls). Some things, are also (in the form of action) quite indifferent, from the WWJD perspective. Would Jesus Twitter for instance? If Jesus would indeed Twitter this is a sanctioned DO (an action). But it doesn't actually include what Jesus then would Twitter about (as the content of the action "typing on a keyboard" is not a DO (an action).

And to sum the argument up, the most austere aspect of this is that people who carry their WWJD-bracelets actually think that the can sum up the actions of Jesus' life. This, I think is a dangerous temptation that we ought not to give in to, as this surely belittles the Christian idea of God as the origin of creation, a God bigger than our comprehension, bigger than language, and ultimately bigger than any action we are able to perform. That, my dear friends, is why I'd like to call it the stupid-bracelet.

måndag 24 maj 2010

People Say/Dragons

Proudly presenting my new collaboration with my dear friend Andreas Saag (aka Swell Session, and the artist formerly known as Stateless) on Freerange Records! Check out our new song - and Andreas brilliant "People Say" as well off course!

Go to Beatport.comGet These TracksAdd This Player

Much listening pleasure to all of you!


söndag 23 maj 2010

I'm gonna be ambitious (Van Der Veer)

Yes. I've decided I'm gonna be ambitious and write a few rows regarding the people I'm reading (and reading about, as many academic texts are written as replies to earlier texts and thinkers). I've been intending to do this for a long time, but have always ended up not doing it, because I need to write some kind of introduction. Now, I will instead risk that the reader may not get everything (or in worst case, anything), but then again, something may be interesting or thought provoking even so.

First off is PETER VAN DER VEER's article "Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, and the Politics of Tolerance in the Netherlands" (in de Vries, Hent & Sullivan, Lawrence, E. (ed:s). (2006). Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. New York: Fordham University Press.) commented on in connection to Aaron Hughes book Situating Islam (sorry don't have the details at hand).

When Van Der Veer writes about Fortuyn he describes him as the classical populist. One of the reasons is that "he followed a very common trajectory from the radical left to neo-conservative" (Van Der Veer 2006:530). This is one of the first things I grew wary of in the article. The argument of postulating someone as a populist because they've found sympathetic feats in both the left and right camp, can suggest that someone indeed has a hard time making their mind up regarding what they believe in. It can however also suggest that the understanding of left and right as arch enemies is not always the best way to view the whole of politics.

Fortuyn was radically sceptic towards immigrants, and especially muslims whom he considered "backwards". Normally this is an argument that is percieved as far from the left. However, in Sweden, the work immigration came to a halt because of the union movement (a movement siutated to the left, due to its connection of the working class) in Sweden. Furthermore, even though the left and right in Sweden (which is not the left and right that is described in the article, but again there are probably likenesses) have different policies on immigration as a whole - the idea that politics is something that should remain separated from religion and religious claims is an overarching idea that Swedish politicians seem to have bought wholesale. Also, there are plenty of examples of irreligious sentiments to the left in politics, especially in the left's history. Marxism, for instance, has never been known for its generous attitude towards religious people. It's more been one of: sure, be religious, but the reasonable thing in the end is off course to become fully attached to the idea of strict materialism and thereby embrace atheism.

So, back to Fortuyn. Another interesting feat that separates him from most usual "right wing"-men, is the fact that he was gay. And not in a subdued closet type way; he used it as a means of breathing flamboyant life into what he described as dull dutch politics. The "purple" coalition that ruled the Netherlands at the time was also consensus-based in their mode of politics, and didn't care much for bringin passions into the political realm. Chantal Mouffe has rightly pointed out in her "On the political" and also in her contribution in the same book (de Vries & Sullivan) that these passions are crucial in order for the political to function properly. So that someone moved away from the dulled consensus and brought in both a flamboyant alternative lifestyle AND passion, have to count for something more than being described as just your "usual populist".

So what does it mean that Fortuyn was gay? For one, his sexual identity enabled him to compare a progressive sexual politics against (elements in) the Islamic traditions (which he no doubt bundled together as The Islamic Tradition). He then went on to offer the classical easy sollution of "the immigrants are the problem, if we can just get rid of them and their backwardness everything will be fine" (although this everything is typically never defined, because as you start picking it apart it always becomes evident how little bearing on society its minority groups have in many cases). So yes, Fortuyn gave in to easy - too easy - sollutions (meaning no sollution at all in praxis). This, however does not make all his criticism null and void.

In Sweden this year there was quite a debacle around Sveriges Unga Muslimer/Sweden's Young Muslims' (SUM) annual youth conference (the one I attended for my field work in 2009). The reason was that SUM had invited Abdullah Hakim Quick - a speaker that had previously made antigay remarks. RFSL (NGO protecting gay rights) opted for a cancellation of SUM's state funding and in the end SUM choose to withdraw their invitation to said speaker (although they maintained that he was never intended to speak on that topic to start with). Even though SUM withdrew the invitation to Hakim Quick, my fieldwork showed that many of the young muslim were opposed to the idea of allowing gay couples to marry. This is interesting, since this is one minority group who want their rights to be protected, at the same time as members of the group feel hesitant to extend rights to another minority community.

Furthermore, the sentiments expressed in my survey shows that although voting for parties on the left, these young muslims also expressed some conservative sentiments, regarding questions of family and morality. This is another interesting example of how the left-right dicotomy is not functional in order to understand the voters. If we were to apply Van Der Veer's terminology; are these muslims then also "populists"? They have sympathy with questions both to the left and right, but only for the left (and green) parties in Sweden. How do we understand that, from Van Der Veer's proposed perspective? Aaron Hughes proposes that it is not the place of the scholar to be a "cheerleader" of religion. When we do feel the need for it, we need to be able to "do science" in a critical way, where we feel that routing for, or being apologetic, or criticizing a certain mode of religious behavior is not a stance we need to take a priori. Instead we must allow ourselves to get to grips with both problematic and encouraging ways in which religion (and its different parts) operate.

We may for instance acknowledge that even Fortuyn - populist or no - may have points in his argument. My point with this argument is that he poses one interesting question within his argument (which on the whole, however, faulters in my eyes). This question also cuts through the division of politics into left and right, but at the same time proposes that we need to take passions (as Mouffe propose) into politics, in order for them to function. The interesting question, that remains to be answered then, is off course what passions? I for one argue for the legitimacy of religious passions, making their way into the political, not to dominate the discourse, but to be one of the many parts of people's lives which also needs to be reflected in representative politics. Anything less than full representation of (the) people, fails to be a representation.

fredag 21 maj 2010

Extrainsatt: Om Genus

Hade lite diskussioner idag med några vänner på Facebook om det här med Genus, jämställdhet och annat. Som så ofta när jag tycker att ett ämne är intressant så känns det snabbt som om jag växer ur formatet Facebook och önskar mig fler tecken.

Angående jämställdheten i Sverige, så tycker jag att det finns ett snedvridet perspektiv på detta, men inte på det sätt som mina diskussionspartners sa. Problemet med jämställdhet stammar nämligen ur den allmäna genus-problematiken; nämligen dilemmat med att det är omöjligt att vetenskapligt faststlå vad som är manligt och kvinnligt. Det är på inget sätt svårt att säga vad som kulturellt sett är manligt och kvinnligt. Det är bara att titta i samhället så ser vi hur det ser ut. Det behövs ingen vetenskap till att bekräfta det. Det behövs heller ingen vetenskap för att bekräfta att kvinnor har sämre lön och löneutveckling, eller att pojkbebisar får ljusblått och leksaksbilar osv osv... Så vad menar jag då när jag hävdar att det inte går att slå fast vetenskapligt vad som är manligt och kvinnligt - och vad får detta för effekt på någonting annat?

I den omtvistade forskaren Annica Dahlströms bok "Könet sitter i hjärnan" så konstaterar hon till en början att olika hormonnivåer är fördelade så att män är i övervikt på testosterondelen av skalan, kvinnor i östrongendelen. Men de är inte två skilda populationer; det finns en koncentration på respektive sida, men det finns en stor överlappande skara människor också (som har relativt jämna nivåer östrogen och testosteron, oavsett om de är kvinnor eller män). Problemet för Dahlström är dock att hon fortsätter boken (redan på nästa sida) som om det rörde sig om två skilda populationer, trots att det går emot hennes egna data.

Så kommer vi då till punkt två av problematiken: Hur kan vi ta reda på vad de här olika hormonnivåerna gör? Vi kan konstatera till exempel att män "är bättre" på vissa saker, men problemet är att alla dessa mätinstrument är att de är kulturellt betingade. Med andra ord: när en forskare letar efter tecken på "manligt" beteende för att jämföra detta med testosteronnivå, så går det inte att föra tillbaka beteendet isolerat till testosteronnivån. Det gör att vetenskapen i princip, eftersom den saknar kulturellt objektiva mätinstrument, inte kan ge något utlåtande om hur hormon påverkar beteende. Återigen, vi kan betrakta beteenden i samhället, men vi kan inte koppla detta till hormonell biologisk påverkan, utan att påföra idel lager av socialisering, kulturarv etc.

Då kommer vi till frågan om varför detta är ett problem (om vi nu säger att det inte är något problem att kvinnor får lägre lön än män t.ex.). Det är för att jämställdhetsdebatten - och mycket feministisk diskurs - är uppbyggd kring ett utlåtande om hur det förhåller sig. Debatten vilar på inställningen att det inte är någon skillnad mellan män och kvinnor. Men att vetenskapen inte kan konstatera isolerade samband betyder inte att ett negativt förhållande gäller - dvs att hormoner för den sakens skull är oviktiga; att vi inte förstår i vilken utsträckning biologi styr mänskligt beteende betyder inte att biologi inte styr mänskligt beteende (oavsett utsträckning). Problemet ligger alltså i att vi gjort ett utlåtande som vi inte har belägg för, som sedan ligger till grund för de beslut som tas i jämställdhetens anda.

Vad jag tycker är problemet med detta, är att om vi - i brist på vetenskapliga bevis - vill göra något för jämställdheten så förefaller det vara bättre att göra det på omvänt vis; nämligen att tänka oss att det är skillnad på män och kvinnor - men att vi fortfarande ska ha ett jämställt samhälle. Detta skulle innebära att klassiska kvinnoyrken måste uppvärderas oerhört, så att kvinnor är friare att välja bland även de yrken som fram tills nu haft dålig lönesättning/utveckling, utifrån tanken att det finns naturliga kvinnliga fallenheter och dessa måste värderas upp till samma nivå som mäns naturliga fallenheter. Alternativ nr två på samma linje är helt enkelt att vi bestämmer oss för att omformulera vad som egentligen "gör" en bra personalchef till exempel. Lika mycket som någon med myndig stämma och en känsla för aggressiv expasionsteknik, så ska platsannonserna när chefsposter utlyses efterlysa stor emotionell och empatisk förmåga och ett ledarskap som desarmerar onödiga spänningsförhållanden på arbetsplatsen. Till exempel.

Alternativet ser vi idag; nämligen att kvinnor behöver "bli som männen" för att erövra viktiga platser som chefer, personalansvariga eller vad det nu kan vara. Det vi gör då är att strunta i att de flesta unga tjejer fortfarande uppfostras att vara känslomässigt inkännande och empatiska, jämfört med killar som tillåts vara tävlingslystna, högljudda och agressiva. Efter att ha socialiserat in (eller biologiserat in - det får vetenskapen utvisa i framtiden) våra barn i detta, så förväntas alla ta lika mycket plats. Och de kvinnor som vill åt vissa eftertraktade, högavlönade jobb får först bryta med hela (eller mycket stora delar av) sin uppfostran, för att anamma ett beteende som de hela livet fått höra "inte passar sig" för dem.

I ett sådant sammanhang behöver vi också fundera på: vilken sorts samhälle vill vi egentligen ha? Om vi ska uppvärdera några särskilda egenskaper i samhället; är det då verkligen agressivt beteende, tävlingslystnad och liknande? Är det verkligen en positiv rutt (som dagens feminister de facto är med och pushar för, tillsammans med könskonservativa) att behöva roffa åt sig jobbet genom att gå kurser i härskarteknik? Oavsett "vems" egenskap det egentligen är tror jag snarare att vi som både individer och samhälle behöver en långt större dos av inkännande, empati och förståelse för varandra, för att få till ett bättre samhälle - oavsett hur jämställda vi lyckats bli.

Det här var inte allt våra diskussioner handlade om idag, men jag hoppas att det känns som ett givande inlägg i debatten för mina Facebookvänner och er andra.


The trouble with defining religion

As promised I carry on my mini-series of blog posts, which will present my view on religion and politics - something that may be of interest in the running up to the Swedish election, but also hopefully interesting in general.
This part is regarding the trouble of defining religion. Now, you may think that I'm kidding, right? - I mean, everyone knows what is and what isn't religion. This may at first seem like a straight forward deal that can be discussed in a matter-of-factly fashion, and if someone doesn't can't define religion then it must just be some scholars who are trying to stir up debate over nothing, in order to stay employed by their academic institutions. However, I would argue that the problem of defining what counts as religion runs deeper. I will give a short background, and then connect these to William Cavanaugh's argument in the book The Myth of Religious Violence.
One common way to deal with definitions of religion is to order them into the sections substancial and functional. The substancial mode of defining religion deals in what people believe, feel and think on the inside. Religion is then anything that evokes this special "spiritual" feeling, or makes you reflect, pray or worship in a heartfelt personal way. But in order for a substantial definition to deal specifically with religion the said beliefs must be directed towards something transcendent - a god or something of that magnitude. However, there are a great many things that are usually referred to as religion that doesn't comply with this seemingly straightforward (and very Swedish) take on religion. The classic example - because it happens to be one of the "world religions" is Theravada Buddhism. Even though Mahayana Buddhists generally view Buddha as divine or transcendent (at the very least in comparison to the rest of us humans) and therefor offer prayer to Buddha, the Theravadan branch is more "atheist" if the expression can be allowed. This is probably also part of why Buddhism was for a long time not judged as a religion in Sweden, but a philosophy.
Next, we have the functional definitions of religion. These define religion by modes of acting. Yes, there may be something systematic that referes to some wise being (even though we must include non-transcendent beings such as Buddha), but more importantly religion is about performance. Church, synagogue and mosque attendance for example - and what people do within these spiritual spaces: religions is that which have some sort of ritualistic(ish) behavior attached to it and that gets people to engage with their surrounding community in a certain way. Problem is here, that instead of being too narrow a definition - this is instead too wide, as there is no way to exclude other doctrines who bears heavily on how people lead their lives - such as political ideologies. The usual argument goes: why isn't Marxism counted as a religion with the help of such a definition?
The answer is, unfortunately, unhelpful. The respons such as that in William Cavanaugh's book, is that this renders the definitions of religion useless. But I think Cavanaugh is getting ahead of himself. How does Cavanaugh arrive at his conclusion about the usefulness of the definitions? The answer is that he beforehand has selected a number of religions (the world religions at the very least) that must be fitted into the definition. And when we find something else, like a political ideology, which fits the perspectives we've choosen - we fault the perspective instead of applying the tools at hand for the study of that which we've circled as being religion. I will return to this shortly, but first I will make a short excursion which is not unimportant in terms of the use of religion "as a theoretic tool".
There is another argument in Cavanaugh's book that deserves both attention and merit, which is his historical argument around the construction of religions in the plural. In early Christian writing - such as Augustine - religione ment the true worship of Christ. And other modes of worshipping other gods (which the ancient world was ripe with) was not deemed another religione. The concept of religions was in fact constructed at a much later stage in order to compare the Christian belief to the believes of people who were soon about to be colonized and conquered around the world by Europeans. In the first order religious comparison was applied so that the European expedition could claim: "These people have no such thing as a religion" only to impose their own ways of believing and acting out faith in a proper manner by force. Once the people had been conquered the Europeans incidentally discovered that they locals did indeed have some sort of belief system in place. Handy then, that the Europeans could apply a comparative perspective where we could argue for the superiority of the Christian religion above the local variant - something that gave missionaries the legitimacy they needed.
The next shift came about in the era of Enlightenment. Before this, the faith of the ruler was to be the faith of the ruled (subject). The outcome of the various struggles in at the time where nation-states started to form, was a mode of being where religion was not part of the measures used to control the people. It turned into a division where the church would be the benevolent caretaker of souls, but the nation-state would require the lethal allegiance of the people. In short, the rise of the nation-state produced a shift in what people were willing to kill or die for. Before, it was the church, now it was the nation. Bare in mind also, that the nation-state wasn't always ruled by the people in this era (more often than not it wasn't), and especially not by any women inhabiting the nation.
So where does this deeply problematic history of religions AND problems of definitions lead us? I want to return to the argument above where I felt that Cavanaugh goes awry. I would argue that this history and its host of problem is told in Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religious Violence gives us reason to think of the construction of various "secular" political ideologies are playing into exactly the same register as religions do.
What political ideology effectively does is point to something that it percieves as the good life (and society). This goes for religions as well. Furthermore, political ideologies does not back this up by empirical proof: "Look, here is the perfect marxist/socialdemocratic/marketliberalistic country" and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon. The goal is a utopian goal, an idea or ideal - something to strive towards. This, again, goes for religion as well. The intertwined history of the two - religion and politics - should also make it clear that the transfer of power between them has not produced a clear cut Robin Hood type of power-to-the-people effect, from evil to lesser evil. One of Cavanaugh's points is that in any type of violence - religious or no - there are always a host of components at play who are greatly important; ideological/religious, cultural, socio-economical etc. To extrapolate the "religious" ingredient and to say what this consists of, clearly separated from the other disciplines, is in his view not possible.
For me, this is another way of displaying that religion is not separable from ideological utopian societies and modes of being. Furthermore, religion is not to be excluded from debates about the good in life because of its especially violent or irrational elements, as Cavanaugh succesfully shows that no such elements can be extrapolated. But as I've said I disagree with Cavanaugh on one point: the point where functional definitions of religion is rendered useless by their entanglement with political ideologies. Instead, we should compare these to each other on their shared merits and acknowledge their messy intertwine-ment (is that a word?). We might just want to call it something else. If politics and religion is inseparable, we may want create a new field instead of moving everything from one of them into the other field (thus creating unnecessary confusion). My suggestion is that we call this new field poligion.
Sincerely and theologically yours

onsdag 19 maj 2010

Maj spelled backwards is Jam!

Still no sign of either the first nor second Pinku Vääty release on Spotify (we're keeping an eye out almost every day). So while waiting, I'll give you my May playlist. And May in Swedish is Maj. Which is, to my great delight Jam backwards. So honoring Eddie Izzard and Michael Jackson, here is my Jam-playlist!


söndag 16 maj 2010


I am excited yet again! Now it's time for the second release on Rakkaus Records, supported by Simbad, Nacho Marco, Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray, Hird, etc), Cukipapa, Atjazz and more! Please find it well at your favorite electronic store. (Click above for itunes, or see the beatport player below.)

Much Rakkaus (love)

Go to Beatport.comGet These TracksAdd This Player

torsdag 13 maj 2010

Election 2010 and philosophy of science!

In the light of this years election, I thought I would write a series of blog posts regarding the intersection of religion and politics. This will all be losely tied together, but maybe not in a thematic manner - after all, this is a blog.

So why write about religion and politics at the same time anyway? As I've taken a closer look at these two different topics and their connections, I've started to think that they're really not that different. In fact, I think they are, for the most part, the same topic. This off course may seem totally confusing, displaced, anti-modern, or just simply a matter of poor judgment. However, of this series of posts, I will try to demonstrate my point from various perspectives (that, again, sometimes quite losely tied to each other).

So where to start? I'm not starting with today's topic because it is necessarily the one that have to be started with. In my view, three fair staring points are

- Empirical = legitimate?
- The trouble with defining religion
- Religious sciences and theology / empirical research and political ideology

and so these three parts is what I will try to elaborate on, first and foremost. I will start by addressing the first headline:

Empirical = Legitimate?

We live in a world of science. Especially natural science forges the way we see the world. Not only in an academic context we do away with the metaphysical (things above/beyond the physical world as we can measure, weigh and test it). When people start talking about beliefs, religion, god, ghosts or aliens even, the rest of the room generally gets uncomfortable, wondering when the crazy person will shut up about this nonsensicle topic, and return to conversating about something normal (measureable), like Comspopolitans, Sex and the City 2 (gotta be good right?), and the (generally depressing) breaking news of the day.

So what are we doing here? We are effectively saying that "everything that we cannot talk about with a relative amount of certitude is not really worth talking about". I beg to differ. Ludwig Wittgenstein (the great philosopher focused on language's function on "organizing" reality) once wrote that the only meaningful way of using language is by way of science and describing factual states in the world. Apart from scientific language there are no meaningful language. But, Wittgenstate adds, the most important questions in life are of a different kind. These questions are the mystical or the unsayable which we have to stay quiet about. Wittgenstein's Tractatus consists (according to himself) of two parts; the written and the unwritten. And it is the unwritten part - about the unsayable - that is the important one (again, according to himself).

Be it as it may with Wittgenstein's position. We humans still (although not comfortable speaking about ghosts or the likes) have still found holes in this theory of not talking about wimsical mystical stuff, thus making life unbearable. There are indeed topics that we cannot stay off, blurry as they may be. One perfect example would be love. Even though we may not have much of value to say in terms of empirical evidence towards love, this is a topic that we have agreed that it is probably not best viewed through the lense of science. This I would argue is an important feature in humanhood.

Ok, so we don't view as a topic where science provides all the answers, but trust other things; experiences, emotions, and so forth. Admittedly no one can give an account of exactly all the things love is in their life, nor describe in a precise surgical manner how an emotion feels "on the inside". Still it doesn't hinder us from getting to grips with, and taking seriously, this aspect of life. The same thing goes for the purpose within life. [Here it is relevant to distinguish between the purpose "of/in life" and "within life", as the purpose of/in is more often than not a type of statement connected with a revelatory divine purpose. Purpose within life however is something that all humans create for themselves, insofar as they have the possibility of choice - for instance; I choose a career in medicine/interior design/being a stay-at-home-mum/dad.] Even though science cannot exactly attribute to us the best path to pursue in life, this is not stopping us from pursuing somekind of interest, dream, hobby or line of work. In fact, if science told us to divorce our spouse and quit or job we would probably refuse adamantly.

So why is all this important? Because this happens to be the model in which science came about and is undertaken today as well. Science starts from a presupposition about what questions are worth pursuing and looking further into, and are dependent on a view of how the world is constituted and that there is a possibility of gaining knowledge about this state of things. What questions scientists pursue is not dealt out randomly via the big science-machine - people pursue a career in science by the same reason people pursue a career in architechture or music or road construction: because it seems like a good and purposeful enough thing to do. So even though science have standards of empirical testing and "objectivity" (we'll get back to you later mr objectivity!) these standards are set by way of presupposing that the world is arranged in a manner where it is possible to apply these standards, and that the outcome of this scientific undertaking will somehow be meaningful and contribute to something.

This science of philosophy 101 is adamant to understanding how reality is percieved and constructed, and to remind us that the way we lead our lives in general is not informed by science, even though our way of talking about the world (in the second instance) may be informed by this. This arrangement begs the question of what competence science really have, and leaves a more open-ended answer than "it's not worth talking about things we don't understand (yet)", or that of Wittgenstein's. There may not be a scientifical way of talking about this, that is meaningful within the scientific context itself, but this shouldn't allude us to think that the important mystical stuff (like love of spouses, humans or even God for that matter) is not worth talking about. I would say that this is the cornerstone on which all great art is built: there is something within that needs to be expressed and it takes a non-verbal expression (or in the case of music: a musical underlining of the verbal matter) in order to celebrate and convey the feeling.

That's all for today. And believe it or not, there will follow a connection to this topic that will tie it together with religion and politics as I've promised.


onsdag 12 maj 2010

Pajkastning - någon?

Har de senaste veckorna förundrats en hel del över hur media - och då särskilt kvällspressen och Metro - beskriver det kommande valet. Löpsedlar och artiklar, alla tycks hötta med samma varningens finger: Om grön-rödingarna kommer till makten, då tar Sahlin dina pengar - och köper handväskor och Toblerone för dem!!

Eller varför inte en fantastiskt tänkvärd löpsedel som "så mycket dyrare blir spriten". Med en bild på en flaska Absolut Vodka, som skulle kosta 260 kronor, istället för 239 (alltså 21:- skillnad). Som jag skrivit om mer än en gång här i blogosfären så pluggar jag religion och politik, däribland också politisk teori "frånskilt" från religiösa element. Jag anser mig hyggligt insatt i allmänpolitisk problematik. Varför är det viktigt då? Jo, för att jag inte är övertygad om varken vänsterns eller högerns förträfflighet och att något parti förtjänar att höjas över all kritik. Med det sagt, undrar jag lite stilla: Hur dumma tror kvällspressen egentligen att vi är?

Till exempel, när vi får höra att Sahlin ska höja skatten (no shit), är inte den centrala frågan; vad ska pengarna gå till? Om den ska gå till hemlösa katter, eller till förskolor i ditt närområde kanske det inte är så hemskt. :) På samma sätt bör inte vänsterväljare opponera sig per automatik så fort de hör att skatten ska sänkas. Kanske har fabror Reinfelt kommit på ett i sanning klyftigt sätt att effektivisera något inom statsapparaten, eller utvinna lite pengar tillbaka ur EU-konstruktionen som vi bollar bollar med?

Och min sista fråga är slutligen; varför har aldrig Sahlin tänkt på att slå alla med häpnad och effektivisera någonting som sedan får henne att sänka skatterna - så att hon kan locka tillbaks "nya moderater" till "gamla socialdemokratin"? Ibland tycks partiledarna vara så inständga i sin egen navelskådande ideologiska logik att de glömmer bort att lyssna på frågan (eller tänka på att de skulle kunna ha väljare utanför sin "vanliga" väljarbas) innan de formulerar svaret (eller förslaget). (I owe you one for that, Chris Rock.)

Eders politiske bloggare

måndag 10 maj 2010

Lunch: Västkustmiso

Today's lunch is a favorite dish of mine (which I've composed): västkustmiso (miso soup meets the Swedish west coast). Containing organic cod, miso stock, home made prawn stock, spring onion, topped with a bit of turkish yoghurt and a teaspoon of sesame oil.
Today it was served with rye and wheat baguettes with butter and prästost (a Swedish cheese variety, possibly my favorite). Evening-wise this dish is great with a Grebbestad Majbock or an Asahi Super Dry.


torsdag 6 maj 2010

3xserious pleasure

Arvid Nordqvist Reko Coffee, Booka Shade "Teenage Spaceman" & reading in "34 3-stjärniga krogar i Europa" (34 three star restaurants in Europe) about parisian Le Grand Véfour.

Pleasuuuure has never had more uuuu.