Moral Uncertainty and On That Day

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
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Postby lizzytysh » Sat Nov 06, 2004 3:54 pm

Dear Jurica ~

This war was not my choice. Likewise, I agree with you on the other areas of the world, as well as the Indians in our own country.

~ Elizabeth
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Postby ~greg » Sun Nov 07, 2004 8:45 am

I know there are some advantages to this forum
over the usenet group (
But it has one great disadvantage. In usenet
it's usually easy to reconstruct the context
of a post by reading a small number of posts
above it in the thread's tree. Here, the only way
to reconstruct the context is with a lot of quotes.

Elizabeth wrote (days ago, -sorry!)
about a post I posted here:
I followed you ~ for the most part ~
but still faded in and out a bit
with the way you had to circle back,
stating in the 'reverse' some of the things,
to make your point.
Liz, I just wrote it very badly.

I'm very fond of 'phenomenology'
- close observation of actual phenomena,
- in this case the actual sound of the album,
(vs, eg, political interpretations of it)
The technique tends to be hard to follow,
on account of its pains-taking detail,
so the experts in it tend to circle back
a lot. This is supposed to help. I may
have the style down better than the content,
which is one reason mine was particularly
hard to follow. In any case, in this case,
I was thinking what I was writing
as I wrote it. This may have resulted
a good point or two, but that wasn't
my purpose. I wanted show "lightning"
that the songs needed more time and
thought than she had given them.
And to do that I thought it might help
to show my own thinking about them
at one particular moment in time.
I have in fact gone beyond what
I wrote there - due largely to
an incredibly enlightening article
that Joe resurrected in the
"To A Teacher" thread,
- namely Michael Q. Abraham's
"Neurotic Affiliations" essay: ... ations.htm

(-I am now quite convinced that all of Cohen
has to be interpreted vis a vis Klein and Layton)

Anyway, when I first heard Dear Heather I knew
immediately that this was one album that
would repay repeated listening, -hard study
even. It is a far more accessible album than
any he's done before, and there's going to be a
lot more that can be said about it, with a feeling of
certainty, -and less of that feeling of "reading-into"
that his previous albums seemed to thrive on. .
But I knew also that it would take time - many
repeated listenings. Any attempt
to interpret too much too soon
would be counter-productive, -
leaving one with trivial observations
raised to excessive value, and a
vested interests in stretching them
to cover more than is justified.
That's what I think I may have done,
somewhat, - due to acting too soon
on the impulse to respond to this thread.
It's no consolation to me that "lighning"
did it first, and worse. The more we commit
to our own observations, the harder
it becomes to back out of them, to
hear what's actually on the album without

Again, it wasn't the point "lightning" made
that bothered me. It was her attitude about
the point she made that angered me.

There's more truth to the point than
I'd thought at first. In particular, Joe
is correct that "wounded new york" is
being contrasted with "the millions slain".
And some will characterize that as being
"morally relative".

I didn't get that at first because I was reading
"wounded new york" as meaning "just wounded,
and not down". A boast, and counter-taunt,
-just like Toby Keith's:
Justice will be served and the battle will rage.
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
'Cuz we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way.
"rattled cage" == "wounded new york"
-Shaken, -wounded even, - but not out.
(New York has a proud history of recovering
from its "wounds", ---its crime waves and
near bankruptcies etc.)

(aside: -very revealing too of Toby Keith
to compare the US of A to a dog in a cage!
One thinks of the "American Pit Bull Terrier"
which some people enjoy keeping,-necessarily
in a cage. I don't understand the desire to
keep a pit bull. But I suspect it is similar
to how some people feel about "being American").

Numerical comparisons like that are
generally verboten to those who take sides.
Unless of course theirs happen to be the
side with the higher number of casualties,
- the more-sympathetic 'wounded'.

In this case it's likely that there will be
those who condemn the comparison as trivializing
"that day". And others who laud it as part of
the struggle to gain proper perspective.

There is a morbid fascination with these numbers.
"Lightning" herself has mentioned that:

Nature Magazine just estimated the dead
in Iraq at 100,000, mostly women and children.

Does "lightning" mean by that to trivialize 9/11?

Let me re-phrase her 2nd post (in this thread)
to show what I mean:
Where in the text does lightning say
that she has no doubt that this 100,000
isn't an excessive revenge for 9/11?
She just says "100,000", and that means
that she thinks it's too much - out of any
sane proportion to the 3000 killed in N.Y.
If she didn't have a doubt that it might
be too much, don't you think she would
have added "...100,000, mostly women
and children; -but don't forget
the thousands evaporated in N.Y.,
-many of them women and children also."
Because that's exact what she's demanding of Cohen:

Where in the text does it say
that Leonard has no doubt that these people
did not deserve to die?
He says " I wouldn't know..."
That means he considers it a possibility
that they did deserve to die.
If he didn't have a doubt don't you think
he would have condemned the act?
Apart from the weird expectation that Cohen ought,
morally, to be as bad writer as Toby Keith,
-I have a very big problem with "lightnings" apparent
demand that artists must always explicitly
express the politically correct sentiments of
'the common people' in a way that 'the common
people' can understand, -i.e, the country music way, -
-and not Cohenesque intellectual double-talk.

The demand has a long and real history.
The following is from Roger Ebert's review
of the movie "Max":
Hitler instinctively fails to see the point
of abstract art; at one point he suggests
that Rothman frame his diarrhea. We are
reminded that, in power, both the Nazis
and the Soviets banned and burned abstract
art. Curious, that art which claimed to
represent nothing nevertheless represented
so much to them. Perhaps art is a threat to
totalitarianism when it does not have a clear,
censurable subject and is left to the musings
of the citizen. ... 40303/1023

It amazes me that any "Cohen fan" can read
or hear a song like "On That Day",
and, --for not seeing some kind of
explicit, bald-faced condemnation of 9/11
jump out of it,

(--like what? like he should have written:
"Some evil mothers
Say it’s what we deserve
But they're just jealous
Of our women and mirvs" ?
- regard it as morally relativistic,
- or as actually condoning the attack
- rather than as what it is - a clue that she
needs to listen deeper.
I have a problem with people who
regard the only correct moral stand,
as whatever theirs is,
- who regard any attempt to understand
any other position as equivalent to condoning

There is no naturally politically correct position.
It depends on which gangsters happen to be
in control. Nazi, Stalinists, the gang of 4,
the Taliban, ... the "neo-conservative" "religious-right".
You name it. They're all the same - "The True Believer".

I haven't heard Springsteen's "The Rising",
but I've read that it's gotten the same
kind of criticism. Here's one, about it's
very existence:
Bruce Springstein (The Rising) - Fuck The Boss,
and fuck going on tour to cash in on a national trajedy.
(Also fuck Enrique Inglesias, DMB, U2,
Ryan Adams for the same reason.)

It's no wonder Cohen was musing:
..there are times when nothing can be done.
Not this time.
Is it censorship?
No, it’s evaporation.
Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off?
don't know what he means.

But I don't think his thoughts, the
"Dear Heather" album, can be sucessfully
censored by the likes of "lightning".
Nor will it just evaporate.

I think he's pulled it off this time.

The album is seductive enough that people
want to listen to it. But more important,
many of them also seem to want to think
about it. A lot.

And that's good.

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Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:25 pm

Quickly, some quick flashes about your message greg.

This sophism "If you are not fully on our side, then you are on the other side, and, conclusion, you are my ennemy" was common during this comedy, sorry, tragedy that was the invasion of Irak by the American. Cheese-eater cheater traitor French diplomats know this very well. And the "patriotic fries" speak for themselves.

However, this is exactly what Irak said to US, ah-ha! you rattled my cage and now the big dog is going to kick your big a...pple. You'll be sorry that you messed with the Irak.

Amusing is the fact that is is a folk song that can broke the vicious circle of this second zone cow-boys' movie by an oppening, higher, yet more realistic.

In this song he is also talking about the division of the world into two groups not only on an economic level, but utemost on a way to see, feell, think about everyday life, very different ideologies that are choking each of the 2 groups,(our women unveilde, our slaves and our gold) that was a reality but became apparent for the majority on 9/11, on that day they wounded New-York. Each of the 2 groups being so certain they are possessing the Truth, it is a breath of fresh air ans wisdom, that song, from my point of view. I feel that Cohen in the past showed that is was always open, and in the same time capable to remain himself, not loosing himself in what he can see and respect as different.

But from the point of view of Cohen, I think that is more another of his photo of the event, than a statement, he is still a witness of his time, only the time is changing.
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby ForYourSmile » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:17 pm

My opinion is short, simple and I need to write it.

Cohen doesn't do a declaration. From the "incomprehension" he invites us to think. (Like Socrates).

Absolutely I am convinced that he does not accept any of the innocent deaths. I do not understand as nobody can doubt this.

My answer to his final questions is: I didn't go crazy and I did report. Of this and any crime against the humanity. :(
Don G
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Postby Don G » Sun Nov 07, 2004 11:44 pm

the first time I heard this I loved it. I have heard people say there were only so many killed compared to... or how america sticks their nose in other peoples biusnes. I hate to admit it but I have said this. What a coward I can be! every time I hear someone or my self say this I cringe. I tried to hide from this topic because of it which was even more cowardly. It always seemed to me that people would take these extream political stants in order to hide from the fact that their false sense of security was just stolen from them and they are scared. or they don't know what do you say to that many deaths. If you can't deal with it just jump on the band wagon. when I heard this song it told me that these statments don't matter
"I don't know"
people are dead and how do you feel about that. are you going to rationalize it or are you going to stay calm and do what you truely honestly think is right instead of finaticaly trying to make yourself comfortable with what happen
"go crasy"
you are not supposed to feel comfortable.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Mon Nov 08, 2004 5:11 am

The problem too me is not exactly because they stick their nose, but the way they are sticking their nose. When you are so powerful it would be preferable to be wise. Which they were not. Everybody would like to have a gentle giant to put his nose into their business to help them if they are in trouble. I am dreaming I know.

As for a response to an agression : the important thing is to stay alive.

Fight until you think that you have a chance to win.

Run if you see that you do not have a sole chance to win.

Try not to make an error of judgement.

One dead person in a war is too much.

But Bush was the first to say to US that the mourners should stop crying their dead and rebuilt the town (and please do not talk about the fact that this mess could have been avoid if I have done my job better). They did not go there to told them not to do it again, but to have the black gold under fallacious excuses that was changing from time to time, trying to cover this with the fear and the tears and the courage of american people. Coward did you say? Yes this is cowardice to me.

Now, Saddam Hussein is not exactly a boy-scout. I would not like to live under the law of Islam. It is so different. but I am thinking about the innocent population there, as innocent as the one who died on that day, the kind of people that just want to live happy with family and friends, in peace. But I am dreaming again. I know. I am a big dreamer that thinks that peace and harmony can be acheived among human beings if every body would choose this way of life.

And we all know how an another dreamer of that sort was violently shot in the head.

So, really, I would'nt knew.

I'm just holding the fort.
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby Kush » Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:37 pm

(our women unveilde, our slaves and our gold)
Tchoc my friend...our women unveiled, yes perhaps but I do not buy this myth about our slaves and our gold!! What gold???
16 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi citizens. Bin Laden is Saudi citizen and a billionaire. Saudi Arabia enjoys a more affluent lifestyle across its entire population than the US and most European countries (perhaps the Swiss are an exception). Saudi cities are truly of gold gleaming in the desert sand. Fully 1/4th of Saudi Arabia's population (approx. 20 million) are foreign citizens from across the globe ranging from blue-collar workers and laborers to engineers and doctors. These include many Americans. So, it is they who bring in the slaves, albeit very well-paid ones. It may have more to do with the easy oil money that S. Arabia has which young Saudis never had to really work for. There was a great feature on Saudi society on PBS recently.
3 hijackers came from Egypt....of course Egypt does not compare with S. Arabia but Egypt also enjoys a pretty good lifestyle due to its oil money compared to the really poor countries of the world (Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia to name 3). I havent heard of any terrorists from these places. Indeed, based on a certain index of distribution of wealth, Egypts economy is comparable to Belgiums. Also, both these govts. of various degrees of legitimacy (monarchy and dictatorship) are friendly to US. Egypt receives a pretty hefty yearly aid from the US - I can't remember the exact figure.
(reference: Fareed Zakaria's book 'The Future of Freedom')

A great song is just that. A great song.
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Postby Midnight » Mon Nov 08, 2004 5:45 pm

Nazi, Stalinists, the gang of 4,
the Taliban, ... the "neo-conservative" "religious-right".
You name it. They're all the same - "The True Believer".

This is an irrational statement revealing a depth of ignorance that is completely insane. I despair of discussing anything logically or civilly with people who equate the "religious right" in America with the Taliban, Stalinists, and Nazi's. It is truly, truly hopeless.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Mon Nov 08, 2004 6:51 pm

Kush, each line of this short song could be decorticated infenitely - thanks to the genius of Leonard Cohen.

Your statement is true. I am often disgusted about the fact that humanitary help from "rich" countries are going directly in the castles of the corrupted members of governments of "poor" countries while the population is starving and dying from malnutrition and deseases, less considers as human being by the "higher" class of their own country than by some people of the "rich" countries. What a pity.

But I think the song was not refering to what you said, but to "some people said". For instance, like the terrorists with a big brain wash in the name of God, that are doing suicidal attacks.
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby Tchocolatl » Mon Nov 08, 2004 6:54 pm

Midnight maybe there is hope. If you can get out of the trap of your truth being the Truth.
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby ~greg » Mon Nov 08, 2004 8:17 pm

Midnight wrote >
Nazi, Stalinists, the gang of 4,
the Taliban, ... the "neo-conservative" "religious-right".
You name it. They're all the same - "The True Believer".

This is an irrational statement revealing a depth
of ignorance that is completely insane.
I despair of discussing anything logically
or civilly with people who equate the "religious right"
in America with the Taliban, Stalinists, and Nazi's.
It is truly, truly hopeless.
Well, my personal opinion is that:
to the extent that anyone feels comfortable
being labeled, or labeling themselves,
'left', 'right', 'charmed', 'colored', - anything
at all, - to that extent they have already insulated
themselves from rational thought, and very likely
civil dialogue, - altogether anyway.

And I think that's exactly why they do it.

Because logical thought is never, ultimately,
a solace to the soul. The few who nevertheless
prefer it to ranting, do so for the same reason
some prefer soybean derivatives to animal products.

McDonald cheeseburgers satisfy the blood-lust quicker
in the short run. But Morningstar veggie burgers leave you
feeling better in the long run.

In any case I had thought it was clear
that I was referring, explicitly, to the argument
in the book: "The True Believer :
Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements"
Eric Hoffer ... 69-4390249

-which was required reading once in schools.

On the off-chance that you won't be investigating
it on your own, I quote its prefix below.

(This may be excessive and beyond
forum etiquette. But I feel it's important to do
it anyway.)

The True Believer - by Eric Hoffer

Man would fain be great and sees that he is little;
would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable;
would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections;
would fain be the object of the love and esteem of men,
and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt.

The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him
the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he
conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames
him and convinces him of his faults.
--- Pascal, Pensees

And slime they had for mortar.
--- Genesis II

This book deals with some peculiarities common to
all mass movements, be they religious movements, social
revolutions or nationalist movements. It does not maintain
that all movements are identical, but that they share certain
essential characteristics which give them a family likeness.

All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness
to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective
of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed
fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance;
all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity
in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith
and singlehearted allegiance.

All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration,
draw their early adherents from the same types of humanity;
they all appeal to the same types of mind.

Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical
Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist,
the fanatical Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true
that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and
treated as one. The same is true of the force which drives
them on to expansion and world dominion. There is a certain
uniformity in all types of dedication, of faith, of pursuit of power,
of unity and of self-sacrifice. There are vast differences in the
contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity
in the factors which make them effective. He who, like Pascal,
finds precise reasons for the effectiveness of Christian doctrine
has also found the reasons for the effectiveness of Communist,
Nazi and nationalist doctrine. However different the holy causes
people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.

This book concerns itself chiefly with the active, revivalist
phase of mass movements. This phase is dominated by
the true believer - the man of fanatical faith who is ready
to sacrifice his life for a holy cause - and an attempt is
made to trace his genesis and outline his nature. As an
aid in this effort, use is made of a working hypothesis.

Starting out from the fact that the frustrated predominate
among the early adherents of all mass movements and
that they usually join of their own accord, it is assumed:
1) that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing
prompting from the outside, can generate most of the
peculiar characteristics of the true believer; 2) that an
effective technique of conversion consists basically in
the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses
indigenous to the frustrated mind.

To test the validity of these assumptions, it was necessary
to inquire into the ills that afflict the frustrated, how they
react against them, and the degree to which these
reactions correspond to the responses of the true believer,
and, finally, the manner in which these reactions can
facilitate the rise and spread of a mass movement. It was
also necessary to examine the practices of contemporary
movements, where successful techniques of conversion
had been perfected and applied, in order to discover
whether they corroborate the view that a proselytizing
mass movement deliberately fosters in its adherents a
frustrated state of mind, and that it automatically advances
its interests when it seconds the propensities of the

It is necessary for most of us these days to have some
insight into the motives and responses of the true believer.
For though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite
of irreligious. The true believer is everywhere on the march,
and both by converting and antagonizing he is shaping
the world in his own image. And whether we are to line up
with him or against him, it is well that we should know all
we can concerning his nature and potentialities.

It is perhaps not superfluous to add a word of caution.
When we speak of the family likeness of mass movements,
we use the word 'family' in a taxonomical sense. The tomato
and the nightshade are of the same family, the Solanaceae.
Though the one is nutritious and the other poisonous, they
have many morphological, anatomical and physiological
traits in common so that even the non-botanist senses a
family likeness. The assumption that mass movements
have many traits in common does not imply that all
movements are equally beneficent or poisonous.
The book passes no judgments, and expresses no
preferences. It merely tries to explain; and the explanations
-- all of them theories -- are in the nature of suggestions
and arguments even when they are stated in what seems
a categorical tone. I can do no better than quote Montaigne:
"All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of
advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to
be believed."
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Postby catherine » Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:28 pm

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D
:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
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Postby Kush » Tue Nov 09, 2004 1:56 am

Point taken Tchoc. LC keeps it an open statement -
"Some people say....our slaves our gold ...I wouldnt know"
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Postby lightning » Tue Nov 09, 2004 2:59 am

What slaves? Involuntary servitude is unconstitutional (except for prisoners). No? Wage slaves are not technically slaves. They are employees.
Last edited by lightning on Tue Nov 09, 2004 6:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Nov 09, 2004 5:20 am

Delicious sense of humour Lightning.
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers

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