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A Brief Comment on Ukraine vs. Russia

Friday, March 14th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a "zen"]

Russia, borrowing a tactic used by the Soviets with unruly satellites, has massed a fair amount of troops on the eastern border of Ukraine under the guise of “military exercises”

This has spurred much commentary and articles, hawkish and dovish, about what America or NATO can do or not do, as in the Carlo Davis article in The New Republic magazine or Condoleeza Rice writing in WaPo.

In my view, neither America or NATO or even Russia are not the crucial in this moment. The major variable here in deciding what the US should do or not do in terms of policy and strategy are the Ukrainians.

The overriding question is political: Are the Ukrainians willing to fight and kill Russians to preserve their national independence? That’s the key. Are the security services and Ukrainian military loyal, not just to the government but to the idea of an independent Ukraine? Arguably, the behavior of the chief of Ukraine’s Black Sea fleet makes this questionable – is he indicative of his generational cohort’s attitude or not? All the military and IC capacity in the world on paper matters little if the Ukrainian military and security agencies opt for “neutrality” between Moscow and Kiev. And if they are indeed loyal then Putin’s saber rattling will require a tenfold increase in troops to move into Eastern Ukraine and he can expect that his pipelines will be destroyed, buildings in Moscow and St. Petersburg blown up and his officials at risk for assassination as Ukrainian infiltrators are about as easy to distinguish from native Russians as Canadians are from Americans.

If Ukraine is serious about fighting then the US and its Western allies can have a rational planning session about what concrete measures will make their fighting capacity more effective and make Russia’s secondary costs high enough to give Putin pause without triggering a direct military clash between NATO and Russia (why we are surprised and chagrined that NATO is not a good for preventing problems which *by design* it was not created to prevent or solve escapes me).

The best options until we have some clarity on Ukraine’s real intentions are to strengthen Ukraine’s new government by helping it take measures that increase its stability and legitimacy in the eyes of wary eastern Ukrainians and the world community while making it clear through a united western front that Russia’s economy will suffer if it invades Ukraine – this means the EU and states like Britain and Germany will share in the pain and not off-load the crisis onto America alone while cutting lucrative side deals with Putin ( the Europeans initial preferred course of action and one doomed to be as fruitless as Putin leading the diplomatic charge to reverse an American seizure of Baja California from Mexico).

Europeans allegedly wanted Ukraine in the EU, now they need to roll up their sleeves and accept significant costs of engaging in counter-pressure. Rhetoric is not enough.

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More on the Black Madonna — Poland, Bibliography, Carl Jung

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- some background and pointers, a glimpse of how Eastern-rite Christians feel about their icons, some Einstein, & some implications re my games ]
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I have to admit I was startled by the sheer power — visual and musical — of the ritual depicted below, performed daily at 6am, of the unveiling of the statue of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Poland:
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Here’s the commentary that accompanies that video on YouTube — scholarly accuracy not guaranteed:

The shrine of Czestochowa is found in the heart of Poland. A highlight of Marian devotion, it attracts four to five million pilgrims each year from 80 countries worldwide. The icon of the Black Madonna and Child goes back to medieval tradition. According to historians, the painting follows the model of Byzantine iconography: it is an “Odigitria” icon, that is to say, the image of “one that points out and guides all along the path”. A legend attributes the creation of this painting to St. Luke, who was a contemporary of Mary, and so could reproduce her true image.

In 1382 the icon was brought to the hill of Jasna Gora, which means “Bright Mountain” in Polish and overlooks Czestochowa. At Prince Wladyslaw of Opole’s initiative, a hilltop monastery was built for the Pauline monks. The Child’s face is turned towards the pilgrim. But Her gaze is elsewhere, as if looking into the distance, beyond time and space. Both the Mother and the Son seemed immersed in thought, yielding an aura of wisdom. The brown color of their skin contrasts with the bright surroundings. Mary shows the Child Jesus to the pilgrim, and the Christ Child holds a book in one hand, and with the other gives a simple yet noble gesture of blessing.

In every moment of difficulty of Poland, the population has huddled around the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and the child Jesus, this merely increases the influx of pilgrims. Even today, tens of thousands of people walk to the shrine each summer. The image is dark .. made even darker by the smoke of candles that continuously burn before the icon. Karol Wojtyla himself visited frequently as a pilgrimage to the shrine, especially in 1936, along with many other university students who pledged to build a new Poland with the help of the Virgin.

Prayer: “Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who place their hope in Divine Providence, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are deceived, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are betrayed, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are imprisoned, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who suffer from cold, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are afraid, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland Mother of the suffering, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland Mother of the faithful, pray for us. Pray for us, Our Lady of Czestochowa, That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.”

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There are many examples of Black Madonna figures — Jungian analyst Ean Begg enumerated almost 500 of them across Europe in his book on the topic in 1985 (revised, 2006), and they have been of considerable interest (among others) to Begg and other analytical psychologists in the tradition of Carl Jung and James Hillman — and an extensive Annotated Bibliography for Books on Black Madonnas exists.

Jung made a speciality of the murky regions of the psyche where imagery and imagination prevail over verbalism and ratiocination — the region in which Coleridge located the “hooks and eyes of memory” and from which Einstein‘s thoughts originated, as he noted in his celebrated letter to Jacques Hadamard.

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Might as well take Einstein seriously on this matter:

The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be “voluntarily” reproduced and combined. There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought – before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign, which can be communicated to others.

The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.

According to what has been said, the play with the mentioned elements is aimed to be analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for.

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How many of our analysts are deeply versed in “this combinatory play” of images and kinesthetic experiences, below the threshold of conscious thought — and scholarship?

“Combinatory play” — “the essential feature in productive thought” — “analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for” — does any of that remind me of those games I was describing just yesterday, using graphs as game-boards [1, 2]?

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Ritual, dream, music, myth, play — these are the places where we most richly encounter our own deepest insights and creative possibilities. Religion, at times, captures and holds these themes with a psychological intensity that it is unwise to overlook.

The Black Madonna — in Poland, in Ukraine, in legend and in the hearts of people — is one of those themes.

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New Article at War on the Rocks

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

I have a new op-ed up this morning on the Crimean crisis over at War on the Rocks:

Let’s Slow Roll Any Move Toward Crimean War II:

One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States. It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet. We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.

Far from being entitled to do a victory lap, Putin’s mishandling of Ukraine has dealt Moscow a strategic defeat. With artful bullying and a $15 billion bribe, Putin had pulled off a diplomatic coup by getting President Victor Yanukovych to reverse Ukraine’s nearly finalized deal with the European Union and align itself vaguely with Russia and Putin’s shabby League of Eurasian Dictators. This would have been a tremendous strategic win for Russia to have Ukraine with its rich resources and key geographic location not only well-disposed to Moscow, but as a compliant satellite. Much like Belarus, Ukraine would have been isolated from the West and dependent upon Russia.

….While Russia’s occupation of Crimea merits condemnation and pressure from the world community, including the EU and the United States, the rush in some quarters to make this crisis into a military standoff between Russia and NATO instead of focusing on measures to quickly stabilize the new pro-Western government in Kiev is ill-advised and strategically unwise….

Read the rest here

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Serpent logics: the marathon

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- oh, the sheer delightful drudgery of finding patterns everywhere ]
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I’ll start this post, as I did the previous one to which this is a sort of appendix, with a (deeply strange, tell me about it) example of the…

Matrioshka pattern:


That’s a piece of jewelry made out of disembodied pieces of Barbies from the extraordinary designer’s mind of Margaux Lange, FWIW.

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This post is the hard core follow up to my earlier piece today, Serpent logics: a ramble, and offers you the chance to laugh and groan your way through all the other “patterns” I’ve been collecting over the last few months. My hope is that repeated (over)exposure to these patterns will make the same patterns leap out at you when you encounter them in “real life”.

Most of the examples you run across may prove humorous — but if you’re monitoring news feeds for serious matters, my hunch is that you’ll find some of them helpful in grasping “big pictures” or gestalts, noting analomalies and seeing parallels you might otherwise have missed.

Have at it!

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Here’s another Matrioshka, from the structural end of lit crit that my friend Wm. Benzon attacks with gusto over at New Savannah:

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Enantiodromia:

You’ll recall this is the pattern where something turns into its opposite… as described in this quote from the movie Prozac Nation:

I dream about all the things I wish I’d said.
The opposite of what came out of my mouth.
I wish I’d said
“Please forgive me. Please help me.
I know I have no right to behave this way?”

Here are a few examples…

Ahmed Akkari Repents Violent Opposition to Danish Cartoons Lampooning Islam:

After a Danish newspaper published cartoons satirizing the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, Ahmed Akkari spearheaded protests that ultimately cost the lives of 200 people. Now he says he’s sorry. Michael Moynihan on what changed Akkari’s mind.

That’s impressive!

That one’s run of the media mill…

And this one’s from my delightful, delicious boss, Danielle LaPorte:

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A friend sent me this:

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Let’s just plough ahead…

Nominalism:

Nominalism is the category where the distinction between a word and what it represents gets blurry — a very significant distinction in some cases —

How’s this for naming your donkey after your President?

Consider this one, another instance of nominalism in action, from the French justice system:

A mother who sent her three-year-old son Jihad to school wearing a sweater with the words “I am a bomb” on the front, along with his name and ‘Born on September 11th’ on the back, was handed a suspended jail sentence on Friday for “glorifying a crime”. A court of appeal in the city of Nimes, southern France, convicted Jihad’s mother Bouchra Bagour and his uncle Zeyad for “glorifying a crime” in relation to the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11th 2001.

The classic nominalist image — with which I’d compare and contrast the French three-year-old with the unfortunate name and tsee-shirt — is Magritte’s cdelebrated “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”:

And here’s one final nominalist example:

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The spiral:

Here’s a potential downwards spiral, for those watching India:

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Straight parallelism:

This one’s from Jonathan Franzen:

And meanwhile the overheating of the atmosphere, meanwhile the calamitous overuse of antibiotics by agribusiness, meanwhile the widespread tinkering with cell nucleii, which may well prove to be as disastrous as tinkering with atomic nucleii. And, yes, the thermonuclear warheads are still in their silos and subs.

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Simple Opposition:

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Some of these categories seem pretty fluid — or to put that another way, some of these examples might fit with equal ease into several doifferent categories. Here’s another oppositional class:

Arms crossed:

From Ezra Klein and Evan Solta blogging at WaPo’s Wonkbook: The Republican Party’s problem, in two sentences:

It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it’s good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down the government over Obamacare.

A great “values” juxtaposition:

And hey, nice phrasing:

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Here’s an example of one of the central patterns of violence and justice:

Tit for Tat:

[ the account this tweet came from, which was a media outlet for Shabaab, has since been closed -- hence the less than euqal graphical appearance of this particular tweet... ]

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And here, without too much further ado, is a whole concatenation of…

Serpents biting their tails:

[ ... and that last one of Nein's appears to have been withdrawn from circulation ]

This one I love for its lesson on biblical pick-and-choose:

This one is also a DoubleQuote:

when closely followed by:

And this one really bites:

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To close the series out with more of a bang than a whimper, here’s Serpent bites Tail with apocalypse & gameplay for additional spice:

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Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality II

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- notes towards a pattern language of conflict and conflict resolution: bridging divides in Baghdad 2013, Netherlands 1888 and the Germanies 1961 ]
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I’ll be collecting examples of “dualities and the non-dual” here, because they give us a chance to consider the pattern that underlies “conflict and conflict resolution” and much else besides. This post picks up on an earlier post on the same topic: I’ll begin with three tweets that came across my bows this last week…

First, a vivid glimpse of sectarianism in today’s Iraq:

Second: sectarianism in the Netherlands, 1888:

And last, unexpected but charming, the divided Berlin of 1961:

It’s obvious once you think about it — thought we don’t always remember, such is the mind’s propensity to distinguish, divide, and argue from just one half of the whole — that human nature embraces both conflict and conflict resolution.

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