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Vexillology 2

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- in response to a comment by Zen on a previous post -- swastikas, anarchist flags, Gadsden flags, black banners, and their various variants ]
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Yesterday, in response to my piece on Black Banners in the Washington Post Zen commented:

Funny how no one mistakes the meaning of a flag with a swastika or a hammer and sickle.

I pretty much agree. Most of us — with occasional exceptions – recognize the swastika as the detestable symbol of Hitler‘s National Socialists or Nazis, right?

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And yet there are nuances — and it was in search of those that I sent myself off on one of those wild goose chases to which the internet entices us. My response got so long in fact, and so heavily illustrated, that I decided to make it a post of its own.

The Nazi swastika is pretty straightforward — except that it can be confused with an ancient Hindu symbol of Life, Love and Light..

found in pujas or worship ceremonies,

associated with Lord Ganesh,

from which Rudyard Kipling no doubt drew his own use of a swastika imprint on his books,

although he later withdrew it,

Kipling was so disgusted by the Nazis and the sight of their flag that he removed the swastika, a Hindu symbol of good luck, from his bookbindings. It had been his trademark for nearly forty years but it was now ‘defiled beyond redemption’

and in Buddhism, for instance decorating the throne of the Dalai Lama,

in the design of US Naval dormitories in Coronado,

in old-style greetings cards,

and a kabbalistic diagram:

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Ah, but it also has many variants:

the Maru ni Hidari Mannji crest, from Japan,

the symbol of the Slavic Union,

the National Power Unity Party of Latvia,

the Syrian Social Nationalist Party,

National Unity of Russia,

Russia’s National Socialist Movement,

the Tohokai Party flag,

the Golden Dawn, from Greece,

the Dutch National Socialist movement,

and Swedish National Socialist Bloc,

Action Front Nationalist, Germany,

and the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, S Africa,

reminiscent of this flag of the Isle of Man,

not to be confused with that of the Isle of Women:

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You might think Anarchist flags would be pretty simple, eh? Red and black triangles..

except that this shouldn’t be confused with the right-wing Nation flag from Belgium:

Interesting anarchist variants apparently include the Anarcho-feminist flag,

the Eco-anarchist,

and the Market-anarchist,

illustrated here,

and sometimes, apparently, in conjunction with..

.. the Gadsden flag:

which will be familiar to Tea Partiers and Chicago Boyz.

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I found or was pointed to most of the images above by the three Political Flags of Extremism pages, to which I am grateful.

Now, as to the Black Banners — Wikipedia has an entry on The Black Standard, showing diferent variants of the black banner (or raya) — notably these three:

The simplest version — the one Muhammad carried into battle,

next, the flag with shahada used by AQ,

and finally the version associated with al-Shabaab and most recently the “Islamic State” caliphate:

There are doubtless many more, some official and some the work of individuals, and exactly which versions have ben recorded in use by which groups is beyond my scope to say.

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My real point, my real answer to Zen’s comment isn’t to agree or disagree with him, just to say that both group flags and logos and which groups they’re attributed to, with what exact shades of meaning, can be a tricky business.

When the US Embassy in Cairo was attacked on September 11th 2012, the “caliphate” was not yet in existence, and the black flag visible in this photo was labeled “the al-Qaida flag”:

It wasn’t even the only black banner there:

To add yet a further touch of symbolic mashup, you can also see an Anonymous / Guy Fawkes / Vendetta mask in both pictures.

In any case, back then the “shahada with seal” was an al-Qaida flag, and this week, Abby Phillip called that same style of flag the “signature flag” of the Islamic State in her WaPo article this week.

As Heraclitus famously said, panta rhei — all is flux.

And a tip-of-the-hat to Lewis Shepherd for a reminder of that great word, vexillology!

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Humanitarian intervention in the Mesozoic: lukewarm

Monday, July 21st, 2014

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Article II, Section 3 of our Constitution opens with this strongly worded suggestion:

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

As a people, we underutilize the President’s Annual Messages to Congress from 1789-1913: here is a compact, blow by blow, year by year glimpse into how we saw ourselves through what the president wanted us and our representatives to hear about the state of our Union. What is reported is, inescapably, political. Yet, before Thomas Woodrow Wilson (may his bones be crushed) and cousin Franklin turned the president’s annual message into the State of the Union Spectacular, its submission to Congress was low key. Real history could seep through without being pooped on by monarchial excesses that turned its submission to Congress into a spot-the-living-applause-line-sitting-near-to-the-First-Lady-snore.

The instinct of His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, that old serpent of creative hypocrisy, was right: a clerk reading the annual message into the Congressional Record is less monarchial, more modest, and more republican than what we do now. Over time, Americans have acquired the usual growing taste for what the Nazis sold as Führerprinzip“leadership principle”. If your answer to every question is, from most complex to least complex, “These problems will be fixed when we elect __________” or “We need presidential leadership” or just “We need leadership”, you’ve already broken Godwin’s Law. Hero worship is a crutch for the weak-minded and beneath the dignity of a free people.

Few Americans worship at the altar of Grover Cleveland. Understandable: he was a walrus-like fat dude from Buffalo, New York. Yet his administration’s reporting on its evolving response to the Cuban War for Independence is a model of how sovereignty clearly communicates its responsibilities under the law of nations before that law was corrupted by international law.

The response began lukewarm:

Whatever may be the traditional sympathy of our countrymen as individuals with a people who seem to be struggling for larger autonomy and greater freedom, deepened, as such sympathy naturally must be, in behalf of our neighbors, yet the plain duty of their Government is to observe in good faith the recognized obligations of international relationship. The performance of this duty should not be made more difficult by a disregard on the part of our citizens of the obligations growing out of their allegiance to their country, which should restrain them from violating as individuals the neutrality which the nation of which they are members is bound to observe in its relations to friendly sovereign states. Though neither the warmth of our people’s sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, nor our loss and material damage consequent upon the futile endeavors thus far made to restore peace and order, nor any shock our humane sensibilities may have received from the cruelties which appear to especially characterize this sanguinary and fiercely conducted war, have in the least shaken the determination of the Government to honestly fulfill every international obligation, yet it is to be earnestly hoped on every ground that the devastation of armed conflict may speedily be stayed and order and quiet restored to the distracted island, bringing in their train the activity and thrift of peaceful pursuits.

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Dialectic, or a waltz within revelation

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on three-fold movements in time in Islam, Christianity and Judaism ]
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The three ages of Joachim of Fiore, in the latter's Venn-like diagram

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The question of how Islam in its many varieties views other religions is a compelling one, and perhaps never more so than in our own times. Today I was informed that many of William Chittick‘s papers were available for download on Academia.edu, and the first couple I wanted to read were these:

  • The Theological roots of peace and war according to Islam
  • A Sufi Approach to Religious Diversity — Ibn al-Arabi on the Metaphysics of Revelation
  • While scrounging around the net for an easily quotable form of the second paper, I ran across Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir — and like a dutiful netizen, I stopped off to read a little, and ran across the gem I’d like to bring you this morning>

    **

    Shaykh Faraz Rabbani offers a fascinating example of the dialectic three-step in the prophetic books of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Tawrah, Injil and Qur’an), writing:

    A familiar example cited by ulama is the law of talion, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, which was obligatory in the religious law of Moses (upon whom be peace), subsequently forbidden by the religious law of Jesus (upon whom be peace) in which “turning the other cheek” was obligatory; and finally both were superseded by the law of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), which permits victims to take retaliation (qisas) for purely intentional physical injuries, but in which it is religiously superior not to retaliate but forgive.

    **

    In general, Christianity — having the Tanakh and New Testament for its scriptures — offers a binary or two-step process in place of this movement of the dialectic: the lex talionis is commanded in the Old Testament and rescinded in the New. Only in the work of Abbot Joachim of Fiore do we find a three-fold dispensation, in which the first term or “age of the Father” follows the many laws (mitzvot) of the Old Testament, the second follows Christ’s abridgement to include simply the two commandments of Matthew 22. 37-40:

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    And the third?

    Mirabile dictu, it is the age in which the presence of the Holy Spirit liberates us from all necessity of law. Gianni Vattimo, writing in After Christianity, expresses Joachim’s vision thus:

    Three are the stages of the world indicated by the sacred texts. The first is the stage in which we have lived under the law; the second is that in which we live under grace; the third is one in which we shall live in a more perfect state of grace. . . . The first passed in slavery; the second is characterized by filial slavery; the third wiII unfold in the name of freedom. The first is marked by awe, the second by faith, the third by charity. The first period regards the slaves; the second regards the sons; the third regards the friends. … The first stage is ascribed to the Father, who is the author of all things; the second to the Son, who has been esteemed worthy to share our mud; the third to the Holy Spirit, of which the apostle says “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

    The Archdruid’s Report discussed Augustinian and Joachimite views of the nature of time a while back, and while his entire post is worth your attention, here I would like to pick out this one paragraph:

    What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages — was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.

    Indeed, Norman Cohn in his classic Pursuit of the Millennium sees Joachim’s Third age in the Drittes or Tausendjähriges Reich (the Third or Thousand Year = Millennial Kingdom) of Nazism, and in Friedrich Engels’ notion of the “withering away of the State” — both great tolitarian systems of the last century thus being under the spell of Joachim’s apocalyptic notion of utopia.

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    And Judaism?

    Judaism has its own developmental scheme, in which sacrificial Temple worship gives way to the synagogues, talmudic scholarship and the diaspora — yet always with the Pesach refrain:

    Next year in Jerusalem.

    Here too, it may be surmised, time moves to the music of the dialectic.

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    Seventy Years Ago…..

    Friday, June 6th, 2014

    Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

    Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

    But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

    I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

    Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

    – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944   

    My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
    And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

    Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

    Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

    They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

    They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

    For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

    Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

    And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas – whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

    Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

    Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

    And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

    And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

    With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

    Thy will be done, Almighty God.

    Amen.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, June 6, 1944 

    The men who landed at Normandy seventy years ago when they were young saved the West from Nazi tyranny. They are now all very old and for the most part, frail and far fewer of them will be with us ten years hence to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of D-Day. They were not like the fabled generation of the Civil War, their only peers in American history, whose “hearts were touched by fire”. The GI Generation, unlike their great- grandfathers were not kindled by fire, they were summoned by duty; danger appeared of the greatest order and they shouldered the burden and defeated the enemy utterly.

    Utterly. How many in all history can make that boast from the Walls of Troy to the villages of Paktia?

    Furthermore, they were not conquerors with a bloody sword bearing chains for slaves, but liberators whose victory changed the course of world history for human freedom.

    Even fewer can boast of that.

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    On trial in Egypt: then and now, etc.

    Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- there shall be no caging of free speech, right? ]
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    I was struck by the resemblance between these two photos of defendants in Egyptian courtrooms –

    — one of Ayman al-Zawahiri on trial shortly after the Sadat assassination [upper panel, above] the other of al-Jazeera journalists on trial today. While there’s a great deal of difference between the defendants in the two trials, and while we’re familiar with prisoners at the bar behind bullet-proof glass from the cases of Adolf Eichmann [below, upper panel] –

    — and the Pussy Riot grrls [lower panel], conditions for the defendants in Egyptian trials seem to have deteriorated from cages to chicken-coops over the years.

    **

    Source:

  • Al-Jazeera photo MT @marcellehopkins: Surreal photo of @AlJazeera journalists in #Egypt courtroom cage today. #FreeAJStaff
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