Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Slickest Religion -- Islam

Note: This is a repost of a portion of one of my 2012 posts. I've extracted just this section on Islam, for convenience.

So, maybe it's time for me to go off on Islam. Not that this specific religion deserves special scorn for any reason. It's just time. I'm actually a little bit in awe of it. I'm not all that much of an expert on the history of Islam's religious development, such as, "Who thought this or that up?" although it would be interesting to know because some of this stuff is just damn genius. One of the up sides, for the supporters of Islam, is that with their system, I'll bet only a tiny handful have been raised inside the system and have gone on to awaken and become atheists. Here's why:

I've lived among the real Muslims (as opposed to the recently invented Afro-American Muslims) through work and play. I've lived through an entire Ramadan and I've been allowed to stand quietly among them during prayers. Islam is brilliantly unparalleled by any religion at any time in history by its super-clever and all-pervasive methods of ensuring that their faithful remain faithful and that those "faithful" partake of religion so constantly that there isn't much time to sit around and cogitate on "why the hell did I just do that?"

 First, unless one has an agenda (e.g., the Afro-Americans) or unless one is under threat of death, there ain't going to be many willing converts stepping forward to join the Muslim flock. It is just too hard and takes up too much time. Any outsider who has experienced any of the other world religions, which are generally (way) less demanding, isn't going to be easily "awakened" by Islam and go running to its bosom. So, my earlier noted principle of "you're born into it," pretty much says it all. And a LOT of people have been born into it. A lot more will be.

 Second, the religion's adherents are probably the least philosophically circumspect and open thinkers on the planet. That means that none of the usual intellectual arguments will work on them, so don't bother. That, and there's the "you renounce Islam and we'll kill you" thingy. That might give one pause. The following are the clever methods by which the people are kept from thinking anything but Islam.

 The trappings: People have to carry around their prayer rugs or have them stashed, everywhere they'll be (requires thinking about religion.) They have to plan ahead, where they're going to be throughout the day, so that they can perform their purification (i.e., where can I find a spot to wash my damn feet,) know ahead of time (think about) which direction to face, identify a place (think about) to spread out the prayer rug, etc. Also, an amazing number of them physically carry a copy of the Koran, everywhere -- work, play, no matter. Walking around in public, prayers commence, in public, at the appointed times. Therefore, there have to be provisions for people to wash (purify) in the public sphere. So, even if it ain't prayer time, you'll probably be passing washing stations which are another means of reminding adherents, constantly, of their religion. In short, the trappings keep the faithful thinking about the mechanics of Islam worship even more frequently than one would suppose.

 The Shouter: National Geographic films, etc., don't do The Shouter (actually called The Muezzin) any justice because the impact of his "call to prayer" just doesn't come across the tiny, tinny speakers of your TV. This is kind of like hearing an AK47 shot in the movies and firing one in your own two hands. Yowzer! There's no comparison. The Shouter is using a PA system the likes of which you've probably never seen or heard. It is so loud that it is guaranteed you ain't going to sleep through it or miss it over the noise of your job during the day. For non-Muslims, I'm willing to bet we all have the same reaction every time he goes off, calling the faithful to prayer ... and that is, "Fucking Shouter!") But no Muslim can say, "I didn't hear it," which brings me to the next point.

 Public Prayer: I haven't known Muslims to quietly do a solitary, quiet little prayer to The Big A, such as, "I promise to be really good if you'll just let me pass this test." Nope. (Although, see The Talk, below.) In the Muslim countries it's ALL your neighbors and ALL your coworkers dropping whatever they were doing and getting together as a group to pray five times a day. If someone doesn't show up, it's pretty obvious to a lot of people. You SHALL show up -- and that leaves very little time in between moments of each reminder of Islam during which a Muslim mind might wander.

 This isn't just "if it's convenient." Even offshore, on the oil rigs in the Red Sea, the world stops at prayer time, upon the notice of The Shouter, everyone drops everything (there are emergency or safety exceptions) troops to some pre-ordained space on some deck where they can roll out the AstroTurf "prayer rug" wash their feet in the provided ritual ablution facility and get busy with the prayin'. No kidding.

 In addition to this public prayer, the faithful seem to be taught to do little recitations and readings of the Koran during any idle time. (Idle minds might be the devil's playground. Better keep them occupied.)

 Peer Pressure: If you don't show up to pray or go to the mosque when you're supposed to, first you'll get the evil eye and questions from your family, friends & neighbors. (This can be defended as being a "good" aspect of Islam. Everybody is "concerned" about everyone else. If Little Hesham doesn't show up for afternoon prayers, he might be sick or in trouble. People will know to go check up on him.) But, that checking up is the real point. You don't pray and you'll be checked up upon, pronto. And it won't be just mommie checking. It always seemed to me that the oldest, nastiest, brutish looking beast-of-a-being was the dude who walked around giving the "official" evil eye to any strays or infidels. Big time "shudder" when they came around. Must be like it was when the Gestapo or the KGB operatives walked into a room -- except, of course, Brutus is a "good" guy.

 The Mark: At first I couldn't figure out why so many of the faithful, even top business executives, had these patches of dark marking, about the size of a U.S. quarter, right in the center of their foreheads. Makeup? Hereditary?!? After enough time, you see why. The true faithful touch that spot on their forehead fully down onto their prayer rug, several times per prayer, and the prayers are five times per day, every day, forever. It's a freakin rug burn. Avoidable, but obviously not avoided. I've concluded that it is a mark of the pious, i.e., "See ... I ain't just going through the motions ... I'm actually banging my damn head down on the ground to The Big A!" Brilliant! Here's a religion which has pervaded the culture so totally that the men go to great lengths to bash the shit out of themselves, for god, many times a day.

 The Talk: Unlike the Western habit of saying, "Bless you," when somebody sneezes or even Western extremes like the Christian nut-job few who will say, "Go with God," or such when you part their company, etc., in the sphere of Islam I think it is impossible to have a one minute conversation with anybody about anything without some Islamic religious saying being tossed into the transcript. I didn't have a long enough immersion in the culture to know for sure if this is true everywhere; or, if maybe they were piously posturing for the "infidel" but there are more than 30 derivations of common language greetings or wishes which employ the name of Allah and/or Mohammed (none of which are swearing, as a Westerner might say "God damn it" or similar.) For details, see

 Special Times: This ain't just like a few extra trips to church around Easter or Christmas. For instance, Ramadan is an entire freaking month wherein the faithful "fast," every day, from sunrise until after sunset, and cannot eat, drink, smoke, screw or swear -- at all. Lucky-me got to the Red Sea station on the first day of Ramadan (oh, goodie!) . Supposedly, non-Muslims don't have to play by these rules, but, a). see above about Brutus; b). where do you think you're going to get food or drink when all such sources are closed up tight from sunrise to sunset; c). how much shit that you've squirreled off the tables in the mess hall can you carry in your backpack, into the helicopter, out to the platform, before even you're desperate for sundown (and where do you think you can "partake" that is totally out of site of Brutus?) Thus, for an entire month, everybody is up to their who-ha's in religion as they're getting ready, eating like maniacs before The Shouter lets them know, officially, the sun is up, DIEING of thirst and stomach growling all day after about 10am, praying five times (nope, ya don't get to quit doing that) and then sitting around the table, in front of gobs of food and pitchers of drink "praying" for the fucking sun to set (again, announced by The Shouter.)

 On top of the actual time of Ramadan, when there are long-into-the-night celebrations (resplendent with food and drink), at the official end of Ramadan there is a huge celebration to end the fast. This party is such a big deal that it requires a lot of planning -- more time to think about things to do with Islam. There are a whole pot full of other special days and events in Islam, beyond Ramadan, which all work to keep the faith in front of the faithful. If interested, see

 Now, looking back at all of the above, isn't this a brilliantly planned out religious system? There ain't no stopping these guys. They have it all together. My only regret is that I never figured out how to make big money off of their crazy system. Oh well.

 That's it for today, friends. Please save your IED's and fatwas for somebody who is really worth it. I'm just one crazy old loon living and loving real paradise.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Well, back in the good ol' U. S. of A. it came to pass, fairly frequently, that I would get a bad case of the redass at other drivers. Sometimes I would begin shouting at them in tongues, (within the safety of my own car.)

But, here in Pura Vida land, I have turned over a new leaf and I try not to get torqued up over traffic events ... until this week.

It started right away as I passed through the toll booth of Hwy 27, in Atenas, headed to San Jose. Another little car came out of an adjacent toll booth a few seconds before I left mine and he started down the entrance ramp ahead of me. Down hill. Steeply. All set up so that you could easily get up to speed (only 70 kph at this location) to merge with any traffic.

Nah. This phenom of the driving arts poked down the hill and then at the Ceda (yield) sign CAME TO A COMPLETE STOP.

Me? I was flying down that hill, looking to the side for traffic (there was none) so that I could make the decision to merge ahead or behind any traffic. Instead, as I finally paid attention to what was supposed to be an empty ramp in front of me, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid ramming Einstein. 

From his dead stop the clown swiveled around in his seat to gawk up the road to see if some nasty car or truck was fixin to try to hit him. Only after he had triple checked the emptiness of the roadway did he risk brushing against the accelerator pedal and he oozed out onto the road.

Some evil spirit tried to fire me into a state of rage but I resisted and simply commented on the other driver's mother's occupation as I blew past him. Oh, well, into every life a little rain ... and all that stuff.

Have you noticed how unbelievably slowly many many trucks plod up the hills on the highways here? I mean, hey, I lived in California for quite a few years and on those serious mountain highways, if you weren't breaking the speed limit, semis would run right over you. It can be done. Those really big trucks can go really fast uphill. Does this mean that the truck drivers are just doing the snail act to piss me off? Well, maybe, but shouldn't they try to make up for lost time when going downhill on the other side?

No. I think they generally go slower downhill than they do going uphill. How? Why? DRIVE, dammit! If that piece of junk you're piloting has such crappy brakes that you can't control it going downhill at any speed above 10 kph, then: a). your rolling scrap heap cannot possibly have passed its RITEVE (safety) inspection this year, so, b). just drive that piece of shit off the road and wreck it. Maybe you can buy a real truck with the insurance money.

Fortunately, the tollroad has frequent passing lanes allowing all of us driving at the blazing maximum speed of 80 kph (50 by god miles per hour!) an opportunity to scoot around the highway sloths. 

Speaking of passing lanes, here in Costa Rica, they always end with plenty of notification coming at you from both road signs and from warning lines painted on the pavement. In other words, unless you are asleep (or on your fucking phone, you shithead) there is no way to not know that your lane is about to vanish. You'd think.

All of this end-of-lane awareness stuff doesn't really work though if the rutabega operating a vehicle has zero sense of depth perception. Yeah, on this fine day a turd in a BMW SUV was riding my tail and he kept waiting until all of the "Lane Ends" warnings and the Yield markings had flown by. Then he'd jerk his jerk-wagon over into the right lane, floor it, and get about 2/3 of the way past me before he realized that he was staring directly at a guard rail, whereupon he'd toss out the anchor and drop back on my tail. Over and over. Don't animals learn from their errors?

Well, I don't know ... because we all rolled into the tollgate complex near MultiPlaza. He went left for a booth and I went to the far right QuickPass lane.

As I picked my booth/lane, tightly surrounded by traffic all around, a box truck was slowly pulling through ahead of me. Too slowly. So slowly that just as the nose of his truck reached the gate, it lowered onto his bumper and he continued for about two feet, snapping the gate off.

Now, people, in case you don't know it, these gates are made out of soft plastic and they're designed to snap off cleanly without doing significant damage to their mechanism or to your vehicle. If it happens, let it go. It happens every day. Move along.

This truck stops dead in the lane and I'm trapped behind him. Two, three, four, a dozen cars and trucks pile up behind me. "Hey man ... move the truck over to the side." *beep beep*

Nothing. Then the driver's door on the truck opens. "No! Don't get out. There's no booth attendant. Just get out of the way." *HONK HONK*

Sir Thinksalot, the driver, moseys up to the front and stands there staring at the gate, like a goat looking at a watch. Everybody is honking. A cop rolls up in the next lane ... and watches. Oh, yeah, I forgot -- cops are hired to drive around in their cool cars with the emergency lights all flashing, going nowhere in particular. They don't even do donuts. They just drive around. Then the passenger door of the truck opens.

"No! Don't get out. Get out of the way you flaming cretins!" Now everybody is honking.

The passenger s-l-o-w-l-y walks to the back of the truck AND OPENS THE DAMN BACK DOORS! He's going to inspect the load for damage!

That ripped it. I was full tilt boogy flipped out. I was ready to pop a blood vessel. The cops seemed amused. Patricia, my co-pilot, seemed aghast that the Incredible Hulk had just materialized in the seat next to her.

And suddenly ...

The little voices in my head said, "Pura Vida, Mae. Tranquilo." That's right. I had no place to be. What do I care if that DUMB SHIT sits there for the rest of the day?

I'm tellin' ya. This Costa Rica life is really making me into a nice person. As I eventually rolled past the plodding former lane blocker I almost didn't flip him off. Pura Vida indeed!