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For Ramadan and against violent extremism

Monday, May 29th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Kuwaiti Ramadan ad message: Let’s Bomb Hatred With Love ]
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At the time I’m writing this, the following video has received 2,298,068 views:

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One site posting the video commented:

As we know from the consumerization of Christmas, nothing seems to scream profits to large corporations like a religious occasion.

In this case, Zain is the large corporation, and Ramadan is the occasion for the video, which features Emirati pop star Hussain Al Jassmi.

Ramadan, the fasting month in which the Quran was revealed to Muhammad, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Zain is a Kuwaiti mobile telecom provider reaching across the Middle East and Africa.

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The text of the ad, icluding Al Jassmi’s lyrics, is as follows:

I will tell God everything …
That you’ve filled the cemeteries with our children and emptied our school desks …
That you’ve sparked unrest and turned our streets to darkness …
And that you’ve lied …
God has full knowledge of the secrets of all hearts.

I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.
You who comes in the name of death, He is the creator of life.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
The forgiving and forbearing who hurts not those who hurt Him.

God is Greater
Than those who hide what doesn’t show.
God is Greater
Than those who obey without contemplation.
God is Greater
Than those lurking to betray us.

God is Greater
God is Greater
God is Greater

Worship your God with love .. With love, not terror ..
Be tender in your faith, tender not harsh ..
Confront your enemy, with peace not war ..
Persuade others, with leniency not by force ..

Let’s bomb violence with mercy ..
Let’s bomb delusion with the truth ..
Let’s bomb hatred with love ..
Let’s bomb extremism for a better life ..

We will counter their attacks of hatred, with songs of love .. From now until happiness.

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There os an interesting comparison implicit here between the words of Christ:

You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

and those of the Quran:

The Koran says in the subject of surrendering one’s right to exact vengeance from another, “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate.” (41: 34) So the Koran holds forgiveness, forbearance, restraint, and turning a blind eye to abuses to be the higher ideal of a belief.

The text from which I’m quoting here, with the Quranic verse embedded in it, is by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali entited Islam and Thurning the Other Cheek, and includes a thoughtful comparison of Martin Luther King and Malcoom X.

I’m hoping to write up a fuller comparison between the Christian and Islamic doctrines, possibly for LapidoMedia, and will report back here.

A popular quote attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib, fourth caliph of the SUnni, first Imam of the Shia:

Hate no one, no matter how much they have wronged you, live humbly, no matter how wealthy you have become, think positively, no matter how hard the life is, give much, even if you have been given little, keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you, and forgive who has wronged you, and do not stop praying for the best of those you love.

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Blessed are the meek. Ramadan Mubarak.

On the narrative arc

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a recent Wapo example of how history gets bent (ever so slightly) out of shape to serve narrative ]
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Riley Rainbow in Curved Air
One of the universal arcs, and a personal favorite

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Story-telling shapes awareness.

Yesterday’s Washington Post has an article titled Patriots at the gate: The Americans preparing for battle against their own government. It’s an interesting overview, but I’m not interested in discussing the merits or demerits of the Patriot Movement, Southern Poverty Law Center, Oath Keepers, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, the Bundy Ranch, or Malheur — what interests me is the way the story is told.

Here’s the section dealing with one participant:

Across the family-style table, Alex ­McNeely, 25, a drywaller and “avid YouTuber,” said he became interested in the patriot movement online and joined the group to feel that he was helping to defend the country.

“There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm. “But if I’m denied my rights, what else can I do? Am I just going to stand there and take it, or am I going to do something?”

In the Constitutional Guard, McNeely said: “I feel what we do is stand up for people who don’t have the means to stand up for themselves. I have an overwhelming desire to help people.”

They have passed out more than 2,000 pocket-size copies of the Constitution that Soper said he bought for $500, sent food and clothes to victims of forest fires in Washington state and Oregon and given Christmas presents to more than three dozen children in need.

McNeely considered joining the military when he graduated from high school, but he turned 18 the month Obama was elected in 2008, and, because of Obama’s “socialist” policies, “I wasn’t going to accept him as my commander in chief.”

“I don’t like that he wants to fundamentally change America,” McNeely said.

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The writer is Kevin Sullivan, a WaPo Senior correspondent, and I think we can safely assume he knows his trade. My interest focus on the sentence:

“There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm.

Sullivan has already given his opening identification of McNeely —

Across the family-style table, Alex ­McNeely, 25, a drywaller and “avid YouTuber,” said he became interested in the patriot movement online and joined the group to feel that he was helping to defend the country

— that’s fair enough, and the bit about the “AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm” could have gone in there, or been added to the graph:

McNeely considered joining the military when he graduated from high school, but he turned 18 the month Obama was elected in 2008, and, because of Obama’s “socialist” policies, “I wasn’t going to accept him as my commander in chief.”

where the topic is his consideration of “the military” — but no, Sullivan posts it neither where he’s introducing McNeely nor where he’s talking about his thoughts about the military, but in the graph discussing the Patriot Mov ement ideals as McNeely describes them — see, once again:

“There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm.

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Sullivan wants the irony. He’s making a juxtaposition-with-purpose — long-time readers here will know that juxtaposition as a rhetorical device is a keen interest of mine — he’s linking the movement’s ideals with the AK-47 tattoo to add an inflection of irony.

It’s a tiny point — no more than an inflection — but it’s one that I note in the same way I noted the non-appearance of bin Laden‘s Qur’anic epigraph in media versions of a significant speech, in my post Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns. I don’t happen to share McNeely’s worldview, nor that of bin Laden, but I am deeply interested in the ways the media portray matters of substance and nuance. I am interested in “narrative”.

We’ve all heard MLK’s quote, “somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The arc of narrative has another aim: it bends towards “good reading” — and if the curve bends fast enough it will spiral ever more lightly and less helpfully in, and we wind up with “click bait”. I know this, because I practice my own version of the dark (and sometimes, brilliantly illuminating) art of writing.

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There’s a lot more to say about narrative, and the various meanings it now has.

One of my own interests is the way in which we think a narrative can be spun out of words and images (aka “propaganda”), when facts, grounded realities, history may, as they say, tell a different tale — and facts may speak louder than words. In that sense, if we need a new narrative, we may need a new behavior, a new policy, a new strategy implemented, to speak it.

What interests me here though, getting back to the WaPo piece and McNeely, is how telling a story in a way that makes it a “good read” influences a narrative arc that is, significantly, also the arc of “the first draft of history”.

How is history made — songs, dreams, and sermons included?

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the moral arc of history from Billie Holliday via MLK to Obama — and beyond, who knows? ]
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Our topic here is foresight — prediction, prophecy, prognosis, projection.

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The Legatum Institute today tweeted a Pew Research projection of Muslim and Christian growth 2010-2050.

Pew Christian Muslim to 2050

It is now 2015, so for practical purposes, we’re thinking here about prophecies and predictions that offer what their authors hope will come close to 35-year foresight.

Short form: I don’t get it.

Obama, like him or not, Christ or Antichrist, Peace-Nobelist or Pol, is now US President and has — whatever his strengths, failings, or both — some influence on how the earth turns, which way the moral arc of the universe bends, and or what history will be seen and written once the future is present.

Short form: How does history happen?

I’ll raise that question by posting three videos along one such arc of history — and I’ll avoid the usual genre of “news” and work with song, dream and sermon.

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Describing the impact of Billie Holliday’s song, Strange Fruit, David Margolick wrote in his “biography of a song“:

An “historic document,” the famed songwriter E.Y. “Yip” Harburg called “Strange Fruit.” The late jazz writer Leonard Feather once called “Strange Fruit” “the first significant protest in words and music, the first unmuted cry against racism.” To Bobby Short, the song was “very, very pivotal,” a way of moving the tragedy of lynching out of the black press and into the white consciousness. “When you think of the South and Jim Crow, you naturally think of the song, not of `We Shall Overcome,’” said Studs Terkel. Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary record producer, called “Strange Fruit,” which Holiday first sang sixteen years before Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, “a declaration of war … the beginning of the civil rights movement.”

As Shelley reported, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

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Preaching borders on prophecy when it addresses dreams, as in Martin Luther King’s great 1963 oration, spoken decades after Abel Meeropol published Strange Fruit as a poem in 1937 and Billie Holliday recorded it in 1939:

It’s surely notable that a singer had a part in that speech, too. As Wikipedia reports, citing DD Hansen‘s The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation:

The focus on “I have a dream” comes through the speech’s delivery. Toward the end of its delivery, noted African American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to King from the crowd, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” King stopped delivering his prepared speech, and started “preaching”, punctuating his points with “I have a dream.”

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The President of the United States is an acknowledged legislator, constrained by checks and balances that preachers and poets do not face, yet his voice too has been raised from rhetoric to song:

Here are the Here are the “three rhetorical aspects” of Obama’s speech that James Fallows singled out for special praise:

  • The choice of grace as the unifying theme, which by the standards of political speeches qualifies as a stroke of genius.
  • The shifting registers in which Obama spoke—by which I mean “black” versus “white” modes of speech — and the accompanying deliberate shifts in shadings of the word we.
  • The start-to-end framing of his remarks as religious, and explicitly Christian, and often African American Christian, which allowed him to present political points in an unexpected way.
  • Amazing Grace now takes the place of Strange Fruit, and a President that of a poet and a singer — much has changed, yet much remains.

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    My own Prior Art on prognostication:

    Recently, in Simply so much.. 02 here on Zenpundit, I pondered the nature of foresight in terms of a Marine Corps forecast:

    I’m thinking of Lise Meitner as I view the Marine Corps’ ambitiously titled Security Environment Forecast 2030-2045. Who would have thought in 1919 that Hahn, Meitner and Strassmann in 1935 would begin a program that resulted in 1939 in her 1939 paper Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction — which in turn led to Moe Berg‘s attending a lecture by Heisenberg, the Trinity test at Alamagordo, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    And yet the period from 1919 (Treaty of Versailles) to 1939 (fission theorized) is only 20 years, and from 1919 to 1945 (nuclear warfare) is 26 years — equivalents, respectively, to the periods from 2015 (today) to 2035 (a third of the way into the USMC’s period of prediction) and 2041 (still within the UMSC timeline).

    That’s my attempt at a sober assessment of how difficult it is to “see ahead”.

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    My Art of Future Warfare story, War in Heaven, is set — as the contest rules required — in 2090.

    By twenty-ninety, in my fanciful hypothesis, we may well have learned how to choose which timeline we want to live along in a “manyworld” of constantly branching possibilities – “words are many, worlds are many more, if possible” I wrote, and supplied portals to worlds secular, magical, religious and fictitious:

    Forty some years from now, in the wake of John Hardy Elk’s vision and its definitive corroboration “in the external” by physicists at the CERN Diffraction Lab, Shamanism is overturning “the Enlightenment” as the preferred intellectual basis for inquiry. With its gestalt understanding of the interconnectedness not only of space and time but of chance and will, context and perspective, self and other, the Shamanic method of burrowing into deep external space “in the internal” has proven more powerful, faster, and – yes — way more creative than what are now known as the old “heavy lifting” methods of transport.

    With schools of Tibetan, Navaho, Benedictine and other forms of contemplative instruction now rapidly surpassing CalTech as the educational venues of choice, and Oxford morphing back towards its earlier life in which theology was Queen of the Sciences, a great many talented explorers have now visited realms considered impossibly “far away” even a decade earlier, the “digital” has fallen away at a time when communication between the like-minded is achieved telepathically, and “radiance bombs” vie with “dark bombs” in the end-of-century duels scattered across many galaxies in which “white” and “black” magics compete — under the law, some would say theory, of the Conservation of Moral Balance.

    Who knows? Who can really say?

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    And then there was the ChicagoBoyz Afghanistan 2050 RoundTable. Introducing the RoundTable, Lexington Green noted:

    40 years is the period from Fort Sumter to the Death of Victoria, from the Death of Victoria to Pearl Harbor, from Pearl Harbor to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. It is a big chunk of history. It is enough time to gain perspective.

    The event, then, was pitched five years past the Marines’ forecast, though still forty years short of my War in Heaven. And once again, though more explicitly this time, I relied on the branching worlds idea.. Here, though, I attempted –- not unlike a circus performer astride two horses -– to bring together the physical and moral universes:

    Historians — on the world-line this is written from, and consequently in those cognate worldlines in which you are reading me — tend to date the by now (2050) clear shift in priorities (if not in actualization) currently emerging along these world-lines to the 2020 joint publication in Nature and Physical Review G of Dogen’s confirmation of the Everett-Klee Transformation Hypothesis, which stated (in its minimal formulation) that free choice is the mechanism by which a human individual switches tracks in a given “present moment” from a “past” world-line to a particular “future” world-line, branching “in that moment” from the first.

    We don’t, I posited, move across parallel “shadow” worlds by diving into portrait size Tarot cards, walking a kundalini-enhancing maze, or substituting the sky, landscape and other furniture of one world-line into that of another, though the great Roger Zelazny in his Amber series posits these as methods for planet-hopping.

    My suggestion: we chose which routes we take when faced with the constant bifurcations of the manyworlds by the moral choices we make.

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    And in all this I attempt, however playfully, to glimpse how the past and present might prefigure our possible and impossible futures — and how one or more of those futures may pass through the sieve of the onward-pressing present to become history

    King

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — my bilingual six-letter DoubleQuote for the day ]
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    SPEC DQ MLK Melek

    in the upper panel, in Hebrew, the word MeLeK. I’ve put the three consonants in capitals down here, and the vowels in lower case, but it’s a three letter word as you can see above, and the letters are (from right to left) MLK.

    Which is interesting.

    Because in translation, it means, as does the lower panel: King.

    Human beings a whole lot more interesting than expected

    Thursday, June 6th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — human beings are a whole lot more interesting than was previously thought, evidence suggests ]
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    First, you should know that the English Defence League is, by its own account, “an inclusive movement dedicated to peacefully protesting against Islamic extremism.”

    Now read on..

    Or as Qur’an 49.13 puts it:

    O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.

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    The Gospel suggests, Matthew 5.44:

    Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…

    and I am put in mind of this pair of images, both of which feature people I learned about for the first time in just the last couple of days:

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    Rev. Will D Campbell is the one shaking hands with Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy after the MLK assassination, in the top panel of the DoubleQuote above. He was a rare man — as the NYT puts is, “one of the few white clerics with an extensive field record as a civil rights activist” — which naturally reminds me, too, of my own mentor, Fr. Trevor Huddleston.

    C.P. Ellis was a Ku Klux Klan leader until he met civil rights worker Ann Atwater, with whom he is pictured immediately below Abernathy and Campbell.

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    Wait, there’s more —

    The first pair of images, above, comes from the UK, and the second pair from the US. So what’s the difference?

    Apparently, the Brits serve tea while the Americans sip whiskey

    Abernathy’s reverend friend is the gentleman described in the lower panel here, the one who drinks whiskey with Klansmen. Go figure: love trumps hate.

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    To get the full charge of these various stories, you might want to read:

  • Woolwich Attacks: Muslim Leaders At York Mosque Invite EDL In For Tea
  • EDL March With Muslims In Ipswich In Memory Of Lee Rigby
  • Rev. Will D. Campbell, Maverick Minister in Civil Rights Era, Dies at 88
  • The Ann Atwater approach
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    Of course, the type of beverage you offer on these occasions must depend to some extent on the dietary habits and restrictions of both parties…


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