Forgive Us Our Trespasses, 私たちの罪を赦し, Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti, আমাদেরকে ক্ষমা করে দাও আমাদের পাপ, हमें माफ कर दो हमारे अपराधों

peace 2peace

Please forgive me for lumping together the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme with this year’s (2016) terrorist attacks in Europe, North Africa, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. But the news is all gloom and history has a way of catching up with us. I use the term terrorist and war loosely, and may be criticized-but death is death and the slaughter of innocent people is just that: slaughter of the innocence. The battles fields of Europe, Asia, the Middle East are often lumped together as historical manifestations of past wrongs (with blame shifting according to different interpretations) and we feel somewhat removed from these tragedies; but  cafes, schools, movie theatre , airports, beaches, night clubs – the places where we go to celebrate the joy and happiness of life have become the battlegrounds of the 21st century.

The sullied; those driven by an evil nihilist ideology and a hate for life and an extreme odious revulsion for the simple delight and exhilaration of others  kill for pleasure.

May be all war is like this? Historians will disagree-explaining in minutia the causes and effects, actors etc…and rightly so; but for me it is the consequences of this madness which affects me.

I’ve traveled to 40 countries of the work, lived and worked in 9 countries, including 14 years within Islamic humanity, and in a variety of different cultural contexts. I’ve always met engaging, hospitable, kind and welcoming people who have grown  numb with the incredulity of the madness of the death cults enveloping the planet and claiming allegiance to Islam.

People sitting in a café enjoying camaraderie and banter are slaughtered in the most perfidious and unimaginable way including a 33 year old woman, 7 months pregnant, working in a country where aid is desperately needed and providing that aid. In Baghdad ordinary people enjoying their recreation during the Holy month of Ramadan, chatting imbibing refreshment before beginning their fast are blown up by madmen. In Lahore families enjoying a Sunday out together a blown up. Men and women in a night club are gunned down, and people celebrating Christmas are shot and killed. Young police cadets deciding to serve their county are slaughtered by those old enough to be their fathers. What is this insanity? What hope for humanity?

The Unreturning by Wilfred Owen

Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled
Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled
When far-gone dead return upon the world.

There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled,
And never one fared back to me or spoke.

Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn
With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds,
The weak-limned hour when sick men’s sighs are drained.
And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,
Gagged by the smothering Wing which none unbinds,
I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.

May-You-Rest-In-Peace-quotes-images-pictures-download-1

 For those slain though this lunacy may you rest in peace- because the living are not.

 

The Serpent’s Egg

The disappearance and subsequent murder of 3 Israeli teenagers on 12 June sparked a huge search operation in Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank and resulted in the deaths of several people, including two Palestinian teenagers one only 15 years old.

During the search more than 300 Palestinians were arrested in an operation the Israelis ironically called ‘Brother’s Keepers’. Aren’t all followers of the Abrahamic religions brothers & sisters?
It’s a terrible thing that happened to the three Jewish teenagers, but it is also equally a terrible thing that happened to the Palestinian teenagers. It is an equally terrible thing that Jews and Arab Muslims are stuck in their bitter intransigence some 6 decades and more since the founding of the Jewish state.

Israel must also accept responsibility for the deaths of the three Jewish teenagers for they are just as guilty as the Palestinian men who carried out this terrible cowardly act. Both sides are caught up in a bitter cycle of violent hatred of one another despite PM Netanyahu’s attempt to take the high moral ground while speaking at the funeral of the murdered teenagers.
The West’s covering of the story has been biased in favor of the Jewish state and the continued plight of the Palestinians is by and large ignored by the Western media. Ordinary Palestinian men, women and children continued to be stereotyped as terrorists when in fact they suffer under an Israeli occupation in addition to being collectively punished because of the madness of fanatical organizations like Hamas.

Yet equally fanatical are the hard line Israelis who are determined to displace and remove all Palestinians from occupied Palestine and reclaim the land as a modern day Judea for all Jews.

A little over 600 miles away as Iraq fragments and falls apart another fanatical hard-line Islamist group has established a Caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq, calling upon all Muslims to migrate there and establish their homeland. Is there no end to this madness? Sadly not-our fragile little blue planet lost in the universe, seems to slide nearer to the precipice of oblivion with each passing day.

The tit for tat killings and murders by both Palestinians and Israelis brings shame upon the goodness inherent in religions which have evolved since antiquity to help us to seek a better life- one characterized through meaning based on an ethical and moral vision to counter the hopelessness propagated through the distorted vision of a few mad mullahs, corrupt priests and rabid Rabbis who have usurped the goodness inherent in a religious world-view. The battle between Israel, Palestine and between the mad men of all religions is a quarrel
“That will bear no color for the things they are,
Fashion it thus: that what they are, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think them as a serpent’s egg,
Which, hatch’d, would as their kind grow mischievous,
And kill them in the shell” (adapted from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act 2, scene 1, 28–34 )

Thailand’s Game of Thrones

I remember being introduced to the ideas of Machiavelli in my political science class at university-the assignment title was “Is Machiavelli a teacher of evil?” The question was framed around the 16th century hatred of the man by the clergy and was somewhat biased in its understanding of this great political thinker and reformer. Ironically it was Pope Leo X who gave Machiavelli the job of reforming the failed state of Florence-which he did successfully, but he did fall foul of the Medici after their restoration and was imprisoned and tortured before retiring from public life. Some would argue he was ‘hoisted with his own petar’ so-to-speak-given his treatise on how to rule in his (in) famous work ‘The Prince’.
Machiavelli’s political theories are evident everywhere today in the modern nation state-regardless of the flavour of the system-democracy, absolute monarchies, communist dictatorships, military rule etc. It was often said that the late Margaret Thatcher knew her Machiavelli very well.
They are also resurrected regularly in popular culture and are found in characters like Tony Soprano, Francis Urquhart in House of Cards but more so in the engaging and riveting fictional, historically theme based political drama, Game of Thrones, which explores the Machiavellian issues of social hierarchy, religion, loyalty, corruption, civil war, crime, and punishment – all current themes of the 21st century political landscape.

What advice would the great Florentine political thinker offer a divided state in the early years of the 21st century? Perhaps he might suggest that “all courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” It remains to be seen whether his advice will be followed in Thailand.

References
http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/machiavelli.html (accessed 22/5/2014)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/05/20/thailands-army-says-this-definitely-isnt-a-coup-heres-11-times-it-definitely-was/ (accessed 23/5/2014)
Machiavelli, N, The Prince, Oxford University Press, reprint, 2008.

Double Standard: noun, a situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them

The West’s hypocrisy on Crimea and the Ukraine is so blatantly apparent it’s embarrassing. The United States of America in particular has adopted a revisionist position in its readings of the history of the region. Unsuccessful presidential candidate John McCain’s rants continue to be embarrassing-even to himself.

President Obama, an increasingly impotent world statesman and leader, unable to rely on the euphoria of his two elections and the premature conferring of his Nobel Peace Prize struggles to assert any kind of world leadership in the midst of a contagion of global crises. Rather, like David Cameron in the United Kingdom, he chooses to bluster his way through the seemingly insignificant event in Crimea. It’s insignificant because the people of Crimea have spoken-in a very democratic way-about the direction they wish to see their region develop.


This is in comparison to the unparalleled death and destruction both Cameron, Obama, and the West allow to continue in Syria; a tragedy unknown to the world since the Rwandan genocide, Srebrenica, and the atrocities committed during the rule of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany.

Where‘s your Red Line now Mr. President?

Germany is perhaps behaving very cautiously toward developments in Crimea for obvious reasons although Chancellor Merkel claims she’s been deceived by Putin-all sound familiar?

What are we learning from all of this? Despite the delusion of globalisations for all, and its accrued benefits for the wealthy one percent, the concept of cultural integration is naïve, as understood in post-modernity and in an era of greater technological developments.The world is still a place inhabited by tribal hatreds and internecine rivalries unparalleled since the beginning of time. These will reappear in different guises for generations to come.

The Lord Khrushchev Giveth & The Lord Putin Taketh Away

Reprinted from http://www.pravada.ru
Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia’s Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes (Pravda.ru, 2009)

USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia’s Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes
The Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union passed the decree to hand over the Crimean region from the structure of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) to the Ukrainian SSR within the Soviet Union. Then-Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, virtually gave Crimea away to Ukraine.
The delivery of the region from the Russian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR was just a formality during the years of the “indestructible” Soviet Union. Ukraine received such a gift on the occasion of the 300th anniversary since its unification with Russia. It could never occur to anyone back in those days that the USSR would collapse, and that Ukraine would no longer be a part of it.
Historians have a very simple explanation to Nikita Khrushchev’s generosity. He came to power after the death of Joseph Stalin, unmasked his cult and condemned repressions. However, Khrushchev was involved in a number of repression-related affairs before. He was conducting a struggle against “people’s enemies” when he served as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party from 1938 to 1947 to win the support of the Ukrainian leadership. That is why he gave the resort peninsula on the Black Sea coast to the republic.
Khrushchev informed his comrades of the decision to deliver Crimea to Ukraine incidentally, on the way to lunch. “Yes, comrades, there is an opinion to deliver Crimea to Ukraine,” he said casually. No one dared to express any protests, because a word of the first face of the Communist Party was law.

The Supreme Council of Russia ruled in 1992 that the Crimean region had been delivered to Ukraine illegitimately.
References
Pravda.ru. (2009, February 19). History & Traditions. Retrieved from Pravda.ru: http://english.pravda.ru/history/19-02-2009/107129-ussr_crimea_ukraine-0/

World War 1, Historical Revisionism & the Distortion of the Horrors of War

The 28th of July, 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. I was born 35 years after the end of WW1 and 8 years after the end of WW2, so both major world conflicts, along with the Korean War and the Vietnam War have figured significantly in my education and personal history. My father, a WW2 veteran, suffered from a number of illnesses associated with returning serviceman today- depression and post traumatic stress disorder-but was not diagnosed in 1945, or thereafter, as these were not accepted as medical conditions developed as a consequence of war for WW 2 veterans at that time. My cousin, an officer in the Vietnam War, also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and eventually took his own life many years after that conflict-despite being happily married with a number of children and grand children.

As an Historian and teacher of history I take a keen interest in how the history of war is written, remembered and the kinds of narratives, social discourse and debates which emerge overtime around and on these major conflicts. Recently the BBC online new service published in its magazine an article by Dan Snow titled ‘Lions and donkeys: 10 big myths about World War 1 debunked’ (Snow, 2014). In it Snow argues that most of what we know today about World War 1 is wrong-quite an extraordinary assertion to make, and I’d go further and say it is an erroneous claim too given the diverse amount of informative historical literature available about the Great War. He argues that no other war in human history has “attracted more controversy and myth” (Snow, 2014) than World War 1. The basis for these contentions is unclear, nonetheless this doesn’t stop Snow from proclaiming that by studying and examining WW1 as a separate conflict we are “blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1, but war in general” (Snow, 2014). To support this unorthodox and historical revisionist view, he offers a comparative analysis with the 14 year Taiping rebellion in China from 1850-1864 in which 20-30 million people were known to have died. He casually ignores the morality and ethics associated with war to argue that the casualties of any conflict are only relative to the historical period they are fought in, and infers that we shouldn’t be overly concerned about the number of deaths in WW1. Moreover he downplays the number of dead from the conflict by arguing that given the ratio of men from the UK who enlisted and those who died, the UK got off lightly with as little as “ 11.5% killed” (Snow, 2014).
His account of trench warfare is heavily romanticized too and suffers from the same kind of historical revisionism as his previous claims. He is untruthful when it comes to describing the conditions in the trenches and mentions how “cold and wet” they could be, but fails to explain anything about the freezing weather, rats, lice, shell shock, unsanitary conditions, regular illnesses and the overall effects on the morale of the troops and the psychological stress of the individual soldiers. Moreover, a majority of the trenches were little more than ditches and dug out made hastily during a war-there were no architectural ‘trench designers’ as his account would lead us to believe. Trenches only provided a measure of protection. Even the more ‘sophisticated’ dug outs were subject to regular flooding, and mud slides, and many soldiers became trapped in mud and some died through drowning. His claim that “during moments of crisis, such as big offensives, the British could occasionally spend up to seven days on the front line, but were far more often rotated out after just a day or two” is simply wrong and a distortion of the historical truth. One soldier recounts the horror of it all:
“It was 9 a.m. and the so-called trench was full of corpses and all sorts of equipment. We stood and sat on bodies as if they were stones or logs of wood. Nobody worried if one had its head stuck through or torn off, or a third had gory bones sticking out through its torn coat. And outside the trench one could see them lying in every kind of position. There was one quite young little chap, a Frenchman, sitting in a shell-hole, with his rifle on his arm and his head bent forward, but he was holding his hands as if to protect himself, in front of his chest in which there was a deep bayonet wound. And so they lay, in all their different positions, mostly Frenchman, with their heads battered in by blows from mallets and even spades, and all around rifles, equipment of all kinds and any number of kepis. The 154th had fought like furies in their attack, to revenge themselves for the shellfire.” (Trueman, 2013). Soldiers were often deployed for up to two weeks and longer in the trenches during WW1. His assertion that the upper-class military did their fair share may work for the rank below Lt. Col, but not many above this rank suffered a similar fate to their underlings. (Daniels, 2013)
But, his most offensive interpretation of the Great War is his mis-interpretation and deliberate omission of the facts about the role the ANZACS played at Gallipoli. It is an historical fact that both the UK and France lost more men at Gallipoli than the ANZACS; however he fails to mention how the ANZACS were ambushed by the Turks after landing two miles north of the original planned landing, because Churchill and his Generals in charge of the campaign failed to take into account the changing tides and a command in disarray. (Atkinson, 2012) They mismanaged the campaign through environmental and geographical ignorance. The ANZACS faced steep almost unnavigable terrain and an encamped Turkish army simply gunned them down. The ANZACS went like lambs to the slaughter.
Snow’s glorification of the technology of war is as equally as disturbing as his re-writing of the conflict. His claim about an overabundance of weaponry when juxtaposed to Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth” is a chilling reminder of the horrors and travesties which occurs when technologies are used to kill and maim rather than to heal and grow:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
–Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds. (Owen, 1917)

Snow goes on to assert that “in a narrow military sense” the allies won the war, denying any aspect of the moral culpability which comes with waging war. But the most perfidious account of his rewriting of the history of The Great War is his declaration that “most soldiers enjoyed WW1” (Snow, 2014). This is simply wrong and projects an almost deluded romantic view of war at the front, through claiming that “for the British there was meat everyday -a rare luxury back home-cigarettes, tea and rum…and much greater sexual freedom than in peace time Britain” (Snow, 2014). These assertions run counter to all the historical evidence available to any historian with a sense of integrity about their craft. In addition they run counter to the first hand experience of the many fallen soldiers who served in ‘The War to end all Wars:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (Owen, 1917)

References:

Atkinson, N. (2012, December 20). 25th April 1915 The Gallipoli Campaign. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from New Zealand History Online: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-gallipoli-campaign/25-april-1915
Daniels, P. (2013). Trenches in World War 1. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from About. Com 20th Century History: http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwari/a/Trenches-In-World-War-I.htm
Owen, W. (1917). Modern History Sourcebook: World War 1 Poetry. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from Modern History Sourcebook: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1914warpoets.html
Snow, D. (2014). Lions and Donkeys: 10 Big Myths about World War One debunked. BBC news online Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25776836.
Trueman, C. (2013). Life in the Trenches. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from History Learning Site: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/life_trenches.htm

The Pope, Politics and the Seductive Power of the Free Market

In an opinion piece written for The Nation, a Thailand broadsheet newspaper, Bloomberg columnist Ramesh Ponnuru argued that Pope Francis misunderstands the power of the free market. He goes further and lambasts the Pope for commenting on politics, economics and other problematic social issues which are the negative side effects of free market capitalism, claiming that the Pope is misguided when it comes to offering a point of view on the social ills of the free market era and the general decline in democratic freedoms throughout the developed world. He goes so far as to say that the Pope’s thoughts and comments are “frustratingly vague, imprecise or poorly considered” (Ponnuru, December 21st 2013). Clearly he hasn’t read the full text of the Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium.
Ponnuru isn’t the only ‘free marketeer’ to criticize the Pope for his forthright comments on the growing inequalities in an age of unbridled wealth and riches throughout the world. In the November 2013 issue of the right wing Australian Magazine Quadrant, Mervyn Brendle argued that “there are moments when the new Pontiff can sound very much like a spokesman for the Occupy movement, but his philosophy and goals are likely to go beyond the mere propagation of slogans” (Brendle, 2013). Brendle goes on to further discredit the man by arguing that prior to being elected Pope, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a conflicted fascist/ leftist leaning Jesuit radical; and likened him to the leader of “a secret order characterized by obedience, intellectual rigor and ascetic discipline—the Jesuit virtues—but whose intellectual influences were a mish-mash of Lenin, the mystic Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade and the sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary to China, Matteo Ricci” (Brendle, 2013).
For those who hold advanced capitalism as their overarching secular pseudo-theological view of the universe a Pope with a social conscience can be very disturbing and very threatening (China bans religion for this very fundamental reason-to avoid anyone expressing or using their social conscience to challenge or disagree with the mantra that ‘socialist greed is good’).
Yet it is the right time to have a leading world Statesman comment on the malignant cancer of greed which attacks the body politic of humanity today. Barrack Obama attempted this but has been held captive by his own country’s inert and ineffective political dialectic, and has made little progress since the massive economic depression triggered through the greed and dishonesty of the financial practices of banks, traders and investors in 2008. And other Western political leaders have long forgotten about the concept and usefulness of having a social conscience; they never utter more than a word or two about the plight of the poor, dispossessed and alienated in their countries and in other Nation States throughout the world.
The new Pope is right to condemn greed and excess. He is right to comment that the death of a homeless man is completely disregarded while a 2% downturn on the stock market makes headlines. He is right to argue in Evangelii Gaudium that “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded (Bergoglio, 2013). He says that we have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading”; and that “we have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (Ex. 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” He goes on to explain how “ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision… In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response, which is outside the categories of the marketplace.” (Bergoglio, 2013).
Pope Francis has reminded the world in Evangelii Gaudium that the old aristocratic version of Christianity inherited from the Byzantium era, and upheld in all of its corrupt splendour by his predecessors, lacks relevance in 21st century Christendom, and that living the Gospel virtues, as taught by Jesus will bring us into conflict with a rampant advanced capitalistic, free market with little regard for those with no ready cash on hand. The Pope challenges us all to think more deeply about our priorities and about what is right and wrong in the world and take a stand. I for one am glad of this timely reminder of how to live a more relevant and virtuous life.

References
Bergoglio, J. (. (2013). APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Brendle, M. (2013, November 6th). Pope Francis, Liberation and Integralism. Quadrant, pp. 12-18.
Ponnuru, R. (December 21st 2013). Pope Francis Misunderstands the Power of the Free Market. Bangkok: The Nation.