Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two kinds of unbeliever...

A good deal of seemingly judicious anti-Islamic opinion is little more than bigotry dressed up as secular high-mindedness of one sort or another.

One should be aware however that there is a certain kind of secular outlook that maintains itself by feeding off the more traditional, ‘primitive’ sort of religious devotion.

It’s as if there were essentially two ways to be an unbeliever: the more self-contained or introverted way, and the more outward-facing way, that constantly plays off other people’s metaphysical wrong-headedness.

Islam — along with good ol’ gun-totin’, evolution-denying Pentacostalism in the US — has made itself available as the perfect foil for this sort of sparring just as the traditional religious outlook in western Europe has disintegrated into untold wishy-washy kinds of near-agnosticism that the more earnest kind of atheist finds it hard to get his or her teeth into.

I’m not sure that there are many purely self-contained unbelievers out there. I strive to be one myself, but it’s undoubtedly hard not to feel just a bit provoked by the resurgent irrationalism and militant ignorance out there in the ether today.

On the other hand, it is all too easy to postpone the contemplation of the deeper, darker implications of a godless universe by instead spending one’s time blaspheming against multiple faith traditions.

It should possibly come as no surprise that Europe’s most visibly secular nations — France, Denmark etc. — have become the channels of Europe’s most overtly xenophobic currents.

What is getting lost in all this is the comprehension that the ‘ignorance’ of someone who is already at multiple disadvantages including relative poverty and discrimination is frankly an embarrassingly soft target, and that rational unbelievers have something of a duty to prioritise going after the sort of dumbness for which there is hardly any excuse.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Great noshspots of Central America #1: The Coctelería Cajun

Located in what is essentially the armpit of the Yucatán in more ways than one, Ciudad del Carmen is perhaps not over-brimming with highlights for the casual visitor, but this ever-buzzing restaurant is undoubtedly one of them. 

The thing is that the Gulf coast of the peninsula is know to serve up the finest seafood anywhere in this region - especially shrimp - and there's possibly only one other joint in Campeche where I would perhaps prefer to partake of it. (For another day...)

The Coctelería Cajun is traditional, basic and very popular; the apparent cheapness of the decor and associated ambience ought not to deter. Wooden tables and chairs are crammed into a walled off front yard with an especially high turnover between midday and the late afternoon. 

A few caveats vis-a-vis my earlier, rather disparaging remarks about the location. The Isla del Carmen sits on the beautful Laguna de Términos just shy of the point where the peninsula bleeds into Tabasco. It is linked by an undulating causeway to Isla Aguada to the north, which is indeed a perfect place to take in the charms of the more unspoiled stretches of Yucatán coastline. 

The city itself has a compact historical casco with some fine pastel-painted casonas worthy of the state capital itself. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kate del Castillo....

The Mexican soap star is really circling the drain now...

What strikes me about this particular 'celebrity' interview - possibly the most ill-conceived attempt to intervene in the discourse by a person other than an actual public intellectual since Jane Fonda's visit to North Vietnam - was that none of the three named protagonists had a good enough reason to take the implied risks, possibly because they simply hadn't thought them through. An article in Rolling Stone magazine was certainly not sufficient cause, on paper at least.

Fonda could at least more easily couch her presumption in humanitarian terms even as she, as Penn has now done, blithely dis-respected all those who put their lives on the line against a national foe.

All three were undoubtedly successful in their existing fields, but surely had a significant itch to be something more. El Chapo might have had the hots for Kate, but was clearly also smitten with the ability of her character to live a life of apparent legitimacy amongst the sheikhs and oligarchs of Marbella. 

Ironically, while the capo craved her existence, del Castillo now seems set to end up with his...