On the Defensive- Part 1

One from the ‘Drafts’ folder. As I ponder further whether or not I should have to defend my non-belief- when, logically, those who believe without evidence should be the ones attempting to make their ideological case- I’ve put together some defenses on topics a little less-controversial. Perhaps. People seem to be pretty het up about these things, too…

One night last week, I opted to consciously put a hold on the all the insanity involved in holiday prep and some of the other obligations/responsibilities to which I am currently beholden. My plan (after I foolishly braved the freakin’ Eaton Centre- THAT didn’t last. Holy cows, people. If you’re going to walk and text in the midst of a million people, then you are GOING to get mowed down as I move with purpose to hit the stores I absolutely HAVE to hit), was to chill on the couch and catch up on some reading.

And writing.

My output (both the fictional stuff and here in WordPressWorld), for quite some time now, hasn’t been anywhere near where I’d like it to be. I could blame it on the time of year, but it’s been going on far longer than can be legitimated by that particular excuse.

There is the reality that my laptop is on its last legs (not that it has legs- it’s a MacBook)- sometimes it works, sometimes not so much – and the danger that I’ll get into some serious compositioning and have it die and lose it all is very frightening. I don’t need the anxiety- or the anger and frustration that would result when that happens. Santa knows the sitch. Hoping the Big Guy comes through so I’ll have one less potential defense for lack of productivity. (Update: Totes dead now. RIP Abe. And his successor was not to be found, under the tree- so I’ll have to venture out into the MacWorld to purchase one myself- and that ain’t happening until the stores clear of ‘bargain’ shoppers.)

Honestly though, I think the true problem is that I’m dealing with a whack of sensory overload right now. There is so much going on, and most of it deserves some reflection and commentary. As of this moment there are 12 drafts in dashboard. Lucky 13, if you count this one here.

Comfortably settled on the couch, I tried to put something together that began to address the disgusting news of the past week(s)- downtown Australia under siege, more women and children taken by an putatively-religious organization of thugs in Africa, children and educators murdered in a school in Pakistan…

Couldn’t do it.

Just. Couldn’t.

There is no insight I can offer. I don’t get any of it. I can’t explain away the credulity and self-serving power mongers that drive these sorts of ideologies of cruelty and irrationality. I’m not going to try.

Since I was having issues with writing I opted to do a bit of reading instead. Like the draft folder, my To-Read list is mighty full at the moment. Once again, couldn’t do it.

For whatever reason (partly the season, I’d guess), the bulk of the articles I’ve marked to come back to seem to be about things like belief-based indefensible defenses of the the existence of an historical dude named Jesus and his definite and absolute divinity (and this article about why such defenses are indefensible), the whole end-of-the-year looking back retrospective on things like how no one was reporting let alone paying attention to the really important stuff going on, or the fact that while this guy is attempting to bring change to a millennia-old outdated and obsolete institution, those who benefit most from the money and power continue to fight to hold onto that money and power and deny culpability in cover-ups and injustices…

All that stuff is just sameoldsameoldsameold… I have no new ideas about how I might more effectively tilt at those windmills at the mo’. Too much to do, and not enough determined energy to fight the idiocy.

But I AM feeling defensive… My reserves and resources are low, but there have been fighting words- on a number of topics- that have been thrown around of late. So, since these particular topics matter not-at-all in the overall scheme of important things, these things, I feel up to defending.

When I was talking about the newest iteration of the Band Aid thingamabop (okay, that was a defense too. I guess I’ve been on the defensive for a while now), I mentioned that I was working on a defense of the guy who has stuck around (and retained enough fame) to participate in all the various versions of the thing in the past 30 years.

Bono. We all love to hate him. I’m guilty of that, myself, truth be told. He welcomes it. But hey- the guy’s got some redeeming stuff going for him too…

Doesn’t he?

Yesterday, there was a story on my beloved CBC all about the biggest marketing fails of 2014. I’m not a fan of marketing- I resent being marketed to, and certainly don’t want to deal with people looking for information that will help the process run more smoothly- so I knew I’d get a chuckle at the offered instances in which things did NOT go according to plan.

The Number One biggie gave me a little pause for thought.

When U2 ‘gifted’ humanity with ‘free’ versions of their latest album, the interwebs were set afire with complaints and concerns and conspiracy theories. A certain portion of the younger generation, on social media platforms like Twitter et al, claimed that U2 MUST be Illuminati, since they woke up out of innocent U2-free sleep to the unauthorized addition on their own, personal, technological device(s).

Which none of them seem to really understand. They had been ‘hacked’. The lads from Ireland had violated their privacy by offering them their latest missive. For people who seem to use the social media at the expense of actual human interaction a whole bunch, they really don’t seem to grasp how it works.

Songs of Innocence, their (unlucky?) 13th studio album, WAS there- on devices or in the iTunes store available for download (if, as in my case, your phone ain’t so Smart). It was advertising- an ill-fated attempt at generating a new audience. It was not a conspiracy.

For about a week I couldn’t stop laughing at the suppositions- Bono and Crew were Illuminati. Illuminati. Perhaps the worst part of labeling them such? The accusers were obviously drawing their definition and conspiracy theories from another book by the the writer of TDB (interestingly, I wrote about Bono in that post about TDB, too. Maybe he IS Illuminatus. Just kidding. He couldn’t Illuminati his way out of a paper bag).

Sigh. They couldn’t even pull their fictional conspiracists from good fiction (the Illuminati also appear in Foucault’s Pendulum– but it is highly doubtful that the investigative minds positing the theory that U2 are part of their number- in less that 140 characters- have taken the time to read Eco).


Bono sort of apologized for the ‘megalomaniacal’ stunt, blaming it on their enthusiasm for the new tunes and a desire to share them with everyone.

They offered a whole lot of people the opportunity to have a listen to an album. They didn’t kill anyone or kidnap young girls in the name of misogynistic ideology.

Yet it got people reallyreally PISSED. THAT did. A gift of music. Which you could easily delete if it wasn’t your cup o’ joe.


In the realm of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, this sitch takes a whole big chunk of the cake.

The argument can, perhaps, be made, that what they should have apologized for is the album itself. I have to admit, I was sort of in that camp when I first downloaded and listened to the thing.

The fact that the lead-off single was already an iTunes/iPhone commercial has something to do with that. Irritating as Hell to have it pop up endlessly on the tv. Then there was the fact that it pays homage to Joey. I’m not sure that the song says ‘Ramones’ in any way, shape or form. I’m not sure that it even says ‘U2’ all that much. And did you ever hear the version of Beat on the Brat they did for the Ramones Tribute album? If you haven’t, please don’t google it. No really. Do not. It hurts my heart.

Is it a great album? I don’t think so. Although Rolling Stone begs to differ. Number 1. Of. The. Year.

I’ve listened to it in its entirety a few times since the Day of the Download. Parts of it have grown on me- not so much that I’d have been all that pleased if I’d paid money for it- but enough that I can appreciate what they were doing.

And enough that demonstrates that they can still rock’n’roll better than a whole lot of young’uns getting way-too-much air time on the YouTube and such these days.

The Lads have said that it is their ‘most personal’ album yet. Some of that comes through quite clearly. Bono’s song about his mother, Iris, is truly lovely. Raised By Wolves hearkens back to the violence of the environment in which they grew up- the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974- and reignites some of the same feelings that Sunday Bloody Sunday awakened, back in the day. Sleep Like a Baby Tonight is deceptively lullaby-esque- until you realize it references a pedophile priest…

Add to all that the fact that Bono, even if he is a self-righteous megalomaniac, has had an impact on the world and does have a tendency to do more than pay lip-service to his drive for change.

He gave this little TEDTalk less than two years ago.

Okay. So he’s a prat. He loves himself so veryvery much. The biblical/historical allusions made my teeth grind. And he’s got a mouth on him that makes me cringe at times. But he can also laugh at himself- and at his fame and the lack of real importance that accompanies the fame. And he is doing something. He is using his celebrity (and, evidently, his powers as an Illuminati) to aid in the eradication of worldwide poverty. Worldwide Poverty.

Modeling himself after those greaterthans who came before him, he is helping to make the world a better place.

Factivism. I like that. I can get behind that. (I could do without the image of his ‘collation arousal’, though. Ick).

‘The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power.” That line alone speaks louder than most of the pop-tripe out there in the www.

A defense mechanism is a coping technique. It helps to reduce anxiety. We get defensive when our opinions or illusions or way of seeing the world are challenged to an unreasonable degree. It is an unconscious impulse used for self-protection when things get overwhelming.

It isn’t good to resort to these mechanisms pathologically or immaturely, but we can do so maturely. That latter option may include things like altruism, humour, respect and gratitude- those virtuous actions that we can use to positively optimize our relationships and interactions with society. This can also involve things like emotional self-sufficiency– not relying on the opinions of others to validate oneself.

As I continue to evaluate my own reactions to things- whether those found in our popular culture, or in the wider world- I’ll be keeping that one, in particular, in mind.

While I do so, here’s one from the vaults. I forgot how much I love this song, actually. The Edge’s monotone provides a nice counterbalance to Bono’s somewhat strident falsetto. It also goes to show that this band is more than its vocalist (and his big mouth)- and that they have things of value to say.

The Edge has said that this song- and the Zoo TV Tour– tapped into “the sense that we were being bombarded by so much information that you find yourself shutting down and unable to respond.” Twas true back in 1993. The sensory overload is exponentially worse, now.

“Don’t move, don’t talk out of time

Don’t think, don’t worry, everything’s just fine
Just fine

Don’t grab, don’t clutch, don’t hope for too much
Don’t breathe, don’t achieve or grieve without leave

Don’t check, just balance on the fence
Don’t answer, don’t ask, don’t try and make sense

Don’t whisper, don’t talk, don’t run if you can walk
Don’t cheat, compete, don’t miss the one beat

Don’t travel by train, don’t eat, don’t spill
Don’t piss in the drain, don’t make a will

Don’t fill out any forms, don’t compensate
Don’t cower, don’t crawl, don’t come around late
Don’t hover at the gate

Don’t take it on board, don’t fall on your sword
Just play another chord
If you feel you’re getting bored
(I feel numb)
(I feel numb)
(Too much is not enough)

Don’t change your brand, don’t listen to the band…”

Even if they want to give you their music for free.

Thanks for the tunes, Lads.

15 comments on “On the Defensive- Part 1

  1. Forgive me for being dense (my wife has learned to live with it, somehow), but I get the impression you have, in one way or another, been asked to prove that there is no divine being. If that’s the case, you can’t, of course, prove a negative. However, shouldn’t those questioning you be the ones forced to produce evidence to back up their point of view?

    And, mind you, I attend church; I just don’t like the idea of the self-righteous using their homemade religious cudgels to go around taking whacks at those they consider “unenlightened,” so they can feel better about themselves.

    If there is a God, and I believe there is, His capacity is so far beyond those of knuckle draggers who parade around plying their holier-than-thou routine that it boggles the mind. I also know that His capacity is far, far beyond my ability to comprehend. I do believe there’s room for all of us and everyone has something – sometimes a great deal – to offer. Sadly, it’s often those that race to be seen sitting in the front of the church (or synagogue, mosque, etc.) that have the least tolerance.

    Continue living by example and keeping true to yourself. There’s no need to seek validation elsewhere if you can do that.

    • colemining says:

      Lol (to the bit about you being dense- you are FAR from anything like that, CBC). You are, of course, very correct when you say that proving the negative isn’t something I need to be doing. And those who are trying to demonstrate the ineffable are the ones who need be providing the ‘proofs’. This whole ‘defense’ thing is, in part, stemming from yesterday’s post- and some of the interesting IRL responses I received. And that there’s so much blind, reactionary response to ‘challenges’ to institutionalized belief systems (by things like ‘science’, evidently). I don’t know- I’m just trying to sort it all out in my head- and the best way I can generally do that is to write it out.

      I’m not remotely defensive, generally, about my atheism. It’s well-examined and well-defined- and, if people care to hear about why I think that my worldview is both those things, I’m happy to have a conversation about it.

      That doesn’t seem to be the case, increasingly, when people of faith feel that they need to defend their beliefs. I’m trying not to become one of the militants I so despise, but I have to admit that I’ve been feeling under attack a bit lately. Time to turn off the tv and cool it with watching the conservative pundits or some such. But there’s this whole thing about ‘knowing your enemy’…

      But in all honesty I am concerned- that the rise in unexamined belief- de facto, inherited, belied, if you will- is being permitted to run rampant- and it is impacting our social and educational systems at an alarming rate. I very much believe in the absolute need for secularization- complete and total secularization– and the fact that the separation is being over-turned so many places (not just in the US, but you guys are really scaring me)… I’m just not sure what to do with that. It’s so veryvery important- and yet people are too busy drawing ideological lines and having ‘debates’ to engage in real discussion about this sort of thing…

      I’ll sort it out. Just in a bit of a crisis of sensory overload and stupified incredulity at the moment that has me a little frozen, intellectually and actively, is all. Thanks for indulging me, CBC. And for popping by to visit. Happy New Year!

      • It’s a cliché, but haters gonna hate, right?

        I live in an area with a higher percentage of fundamentalist Christians per capita than the rest of the US, so I come across folks who are dogmatic in their views but have never taken the time to analyze what it is they believe.

        I sometimes wonder if those who overtly challenge others on faith are actually insecure in their own beliefs. You may be running into those types, the ones who have to, in essence, yell because they can’t back up their beliefs through knowledge and logical argument. It’s unfortunate, because they give religion, which has plenty of positives, a bad name.

        Finally, thank you, Cole, for taking the time and effort to put together a very interesting and thought provoking blog. I hope your New Year is a happy one, and we can both celebrate the Leafs bringing home the Cup. 😉

      • colemining says:

        That’s the second lol you’ve provided today. Not sure that the Leafs will pull it off- although they seem to be doing better this season, by all accounts. Not being a hockey fan (I know, I know- they keep threatening to revoke my passport), generally, I have few opinions when it comes to the hometown team. Our Juniors are playing YOUR Juniors this afternoon, though. THAT one I might catch. When National Pride is on the line, I tend to be more invested…

        I agree that the default challenges usually come out of extreme insecurity- which is what is most frustrating. If people would take the time to do the work the dialogue would be much stronger- in all possible ways.

        Here’s hoping that the New Year brings ever-better conversations and further work toward equity rather than divisiveness. Happy New Year, CBC. All the best to you and yours for 2015!

      • Much obliged, and enjoy the game if you happen to catch it. I can only dream of being able to watch something like that on television down here. We get 11 bazillion college basketball games to pick from every week and maybe three hockey games.

        And don’t get me started about the Winter Olympics, when it’s an endless ice skating marathon and almost no hockey, and then it’s only when the US is playing. Wife has to hide the remote control so it doesn’t get chucked through the television.

  2. quiall says:

    If you believe you don’t need to explain. Your beliefs are yours and no one should try to take it away from you.

    • colemining says:

      I wish that were the case- but I’m asked, increasingly, to defend my non-belief, and it’s a conversation I’m quite sick of having, to be honest. The whole thing is counter-intuitive, so my defense mechanisms aren’t firing on all cylinders right now. Need to clear my head, I guess.

      Thanks for the read- and the comment- and Happy New Year!

  3. It’s funny, I never thought much of my non-belief, until I actually told people. Many people agreed or were sympathetic — others seemed incredibly shocked as if I’d purchased a one-way ticket to hell. My sense is that one person’s non-belief diminishes or questions the beliefs of others. I rarely talk about it anymore, because I can’t be bothered.

    I don’t have an Iphone, so I don’t have the new U2 album, but I really didn’t get the uproar over free music. Still don’t get it.

    • colemining says:

      Oh Booksy- some of the ‘outraged’ tweets were just sososo funny… but c’mon. Really? Whatever the intentions, it was free freakin music- not a computer virus that would steal your information. The uproar was nutso.

      I hear that- I’m surrounded, mainly, by people who tend to be thoughtful, well-read and analytical by nature, so I’m always surprised when I’m challenged by those who tend not to be. It seems to be happening more and more frequently, though- which is the thing that has me sort of concerned. I’m all for change (as I’m sure you’re aware) but back-sliding into credulity and superstition- and having that impact our public institutions? Yeah- VERY concerned about that particular trend.

      All the veryvery best of 2015 to you – let’s hope we can arrange for the coffee at Bridgehead sometime soon. xo

  4. I have rather enjoyed reading your post this year and getting to know, about your thoughts on various important matters political, historical and religious or non as this matter may be. Have a happy new year!

  5. […] generosity- and briefly outlined the psychological concept of defense mechanisms. Pop on back there and have a read, if you’re so inclined. It’s a bit wordy (even for me), but I was […]

  6. I love your posts, Cole. You make me think outside of my own box. I heartily agree with you that there’s too much knicker fankling goes on about stuff that is relatively unimportant. Maybe that’s all that matters to some people or maybe they sweat the small stuff because they feel impotent about the big deals. Which is kind of crazy because even making small changes in our own lives can have tremendous impact when it ripples out. At least, I like to think so.

    Long may you continue to apply the same logic and reasoning to matters affecting us all. This post right here is a case in point. Whether you are bringing clarity to the small stuff or the bigger it’s all grist to the mill, all part of the same problem and solution.

    Rock on into the New Year telling it how it is, Cole. 🙂 My hat’s off to you.x

    • colemining says:

      ‘Knicker fankling’. That’s my new favourite phrase. I’m going to use that.

      I get that people resort to the small stuff when, as you say, they feel overwhelmed by the big. I do get it. I do it myself. One can’t be singularly focused on the brutal realities ALL the time- not and live a life, as well. Small changes lead to the bigger- and engaging with the relatively unimportant CAN lead to dealing with things of greater impact and concern. It’s a matter of degree- but if people are willing to look at the whys and wherefores of the insipid, then, perhaps, we can teach them to look into the whys and wherefores of things that actually matter. Perhaps.

      Thanks for the read- and the kind words, Anne-Marie. Rock on, indeed! xo

  7. […] musicians, artists, scientists and factivists (I told you I’d be using that word again) the world over face opposition- often at the […]

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