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A Quick 1: DoubleTweet

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a quick one while I'm toiling away at something longer on Ebola & cultures, and I don't mean the kind in Petrie dishes ]
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This, today wrt Holland:

more or less echoes this, wrt LA in March:

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I suspect these two tweets, taken as indicators, support the idea that some at least of those who travel to foreign lands for purposes of fighting do so because adventure is a potent lure. I further suspect that biker and gang codes of honor / shame fit well with the codes of honor / shame prominent in the ME — but I’d need anthropological backup for such a claim, and currently lack the resources to pursue it.

And I suspect there’s a lateral tie in here with the work of Dr Bunker and others on Mexican narcocultura.

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REVIEW: The Orientalist by Tom Reiss

Monday, August 4th, 2014

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

The Orientalist by Tom Reiss 

Some biographies are as much about the era or the milieu as the man. The Orientalist is one of them.

This is not to say that Tom Reiss has written a bad book. On the contrary, it is an enlightening and informative one, even for someone well read in the history of Russia and Germany in the twentieth century, will find that The Orientalist has a rich store of little known anecdotes. In an effort to unlock the mystery of “Kurban Said“, the alleged author of the modern Azeri national epic, Ali and Nino: A Love Story, whose identity is hotly disputed, Reiss became a cultural archaeologist excavating the graveyards of Empires, Tsarist, Wilhemine and Ottoman. It was a search that brought Reiss to a remarkable character, Lev “Essad Bey” Nussimbaum, who had narrowly escaped the Bolshevik CHEKA, made fame and fortune as a literary freebooter in Weimar Germany only to sink into obscurity during WWII, dying in poverty and illness in Fascist Italy.

Lev, who was the son of a millionaire Russian-Jewish oil magnate from Baku, was a cultural chameleon, reinventing himself numerous times, converting to Islam, passing himself off variously as Muslim prince, a Transcaucasian “Wild Jew”, Orientalist scholar, monarchist and anti-Communist writer, briefly a literary star on Germany’s radical far Right. Even in the early days of the Third Reich, despite accusations of being a “Jewish story-swindler”, the many anti-Soviet books of “Essad Bey” were warmly endorsed by Josef Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda for reading by the Nazi Party faithful. The famous individuals who reputedly crossed Lev’s path are remarkable - Joseph Stalin, Fyodor Vinberg, Vladimir Nabokov, Walter Benjamin,  Giovanni Gentile, Walter Mehring,  Benito Mussolini, Egon Kisch, George Sylvester Viereck, Grand Duke Cyril Romanov, Max Brod, Stefan Zwieg, Hertha Pauli, and Ezra Pound among others.  “Essad Bey” was the denouement of the respectable intellectual tradition of 19th century Orientalism, particularly that of Jewish European scholars and ethnographer-explorers. Lev Nussimbaum was less a Martin Buber (whom Lev knew) than he was the Karl May of the East, a dime store mythologizer of  Transcaucasia, old Qajar Persia and Islam for popular audiences accustomed to a tabloid press.

Essad Bey as a character reflects the contradictions and juxtapositions of an interwar Europe, especially Germany, ravaged by the Great War and Communist Revolution in ways that would be highly improbable today.  Lev was a talented writer, a  Jewish refugee who was an exponent of Islam and an admirer of Fascism, more glib than insightful, more clever than wise, at home playing the outsider but his place never secure. When the official black sedans of the Fascist secret police rolled up to an ailing Lev’s hotel and found him dead, villagers assumed the OVRA men where there to arrest “the Muslim”; in reality, it was to take Lev to make wartime propaganda broadcasts for Italy in Persian.

Recommended.

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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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Norway’s “cultural Christian” crusader revisited

Friday, May 30th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a minor incongruity? -- Breivik and Wallander ]
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This is a quick (I wish) note about something that caught my eye — a character in the British (Kenneth Branagh) version of Wallander is decribed as a “cultural Christian” when he’s in significants way about as far from what Anders Breivik meant when he called himself a “cultural Christian” as one can imagine.

The question this raises for me is whether the phrase has a single clear meaning — and the English Wallander series simply mangled it — or whether perhaps in Scandinavian society it has a wider meaning, and Breivik was limiting it for his own purposes. Let’s start with Wallander:

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The novel Before the Frost, by Henning Mankell, opens with a Prologue about Jim Jones and his Peoples’ Church in Guyana where 909 people died in 1978 after “drinking the Kool-aid” — meaning both a cyanide laced drink with bullet chasers for any who were reluctant to participate, and the alternate and aberrant version of Christianity which Jim Jones preached — but no mention that I can see of Heaven’s Gate, the group led by Marshall Applewhite which suicided in 1977 to attain a “level of existence above human” in the trail of the comet Hale-Bopp.

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No matter, there’s a Heaven’s Gate reference (see above) in the Kenneth Branagh version of Before the Frost, in Wallander, series 3 episode 3, which is the version that caught my eye, and gave rise to this post.

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We thus have two clear historical “cult suicide” references, each adding a touch of realism to a narrative that begins with the burning of some swans, and in the TV version includes a Bible with the Book of Revelation heavily marked up, and at least one tract –

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— about Leviticus 20.13, which reads:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

— a narrative which ends with a series of self-immolations by members of a wayward church, each one accompanied by a “confession” that the member in question is dying to atone for some specific sin committed by others, accompanied by such words as:

Two of them were burned alive in the fiery lake of burning sulphur, the rest of them were killed by the sword that came out of the rider on the horse. And all the birds gorged themselves on the flesh. I confess to murder. I am sacrificing myself for the sins of others. I am doing this in the name of Him who was dead and rose again.

Note that it wasn’t swans that were “burned alive in the fiery lake” in the original context. The King James Version gives Revelation 19 verses 20-21 as reading:

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

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The group portrayed here as “culturally Christian” in this episode of the Wallander series is a group with a fixation on the inerrancy not only of the Biblical text but of their own particular and peculiar interpretation of it and their own aberrant and abhorrent way of expressing that interpretation.

How different that is from Anders Breivik‘s version of “cultural Christianity” in his Manifesto, prepared before the 2011 slaughter of 77 in Oslo and Utoya, Norway.

Section 3.139 of Breivik’s 2083 European Declaration of Independence, Distinguishing between cultural Christendom and religious Christendom – reforming our suicidal Church, reads:

A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.

A majority of Christians, especially liberal, humanist Christians oppose the doctrines of self defence. I believe that self defence is a central part of Christianity as documented in another part of this book. The modern day pacifist Christianity is among other things a result of our current regimes and their deliberate influence of the Church. They castrated and made the Church impotent and irrelevant, we will rejuvenate it by implementing our own reforms. But pragmatism will be the basis for which direction we chose to go. A strong church (on certain areas) is essential for the unity of our European countries.

It is essential that we preserve and even strengthen the Church and European Christendom in general (by awarding it more political influence on certain areas), when it comes to the moral, cultural and social aspects of society. It should even be granted monopoly on certain areas to strengthen European cohesion/unity. This does not mean that we will continue allow the feminist-liberal, humanist faction of the Church to propagate its pacifist-humanist (suicidal) views/anti self defence doctrines. The Church must be anti-pacifist in the manner that it actively preaches self-defence and even support preemptive strikes as a mechanic to safeguard either Christian minorities in Muslim dominated areas or even Europe itself. We must ensure that a sustainable and traditional version of Christendom is propagated. This will involve that we take decisive steps to disallow the liberal leaders of the church to prevent them from committing suicide. We must ensure that the churches of Europe propagate an values that are sustainable and that will even contribute to safeguard Christian European values long term. European Christendom and the cross will be the symbol in which every cultural conservative can unite under in our common defence. It should serve as the uniting symbol for all Europeans whether they are agnostic or atheists.

The pacifist/suicidal Christians must never be allowed to dominate the church again which one of the reasons why I personally believe that the protestant Church in Europe should once again should reform to become Catholic (Nordic countries, the UK, Germany, Benelux etc). Re-introduction of cultural and Church aspects relating to honour should be the core of our objective when reforming the Church. My hope is that the future nationalist leadership in Western European countries will agree. At the very least, we must support the conservative, anti-pacifist cultural Christian leaders and ensure that they are able to influence the European churches. There must however be clear distinctions. The Church must not put any limits whatsoever on issues relating to science, research and development. Europe will continue to be the world’s center for research and development in all areas, strengthened by a predictable and “unchangeable” cultural framework. This again will considerably strengthen European and societal cohesion and therefore contribute to sustainable societies where harmony, progress, freedom and the furtherance of mankind are the primary civilisational pillars.

No Biblical inerrancy there — indeed, Breivik’s “cultural Christianity” is entirely compatible with a similar version of Hinduism, which he also endorses. It is Islam that he perceives as a threat, repulsed from Christendom once by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours, and again at the Gates of Vienna — with Europe now exposed to a third wave of assault by its own fondness for muticuluralism and its resulting inability to perceive the very real threat that Islam in his view represents…

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Breivik’s “The Church must not put any limits whatsoever on issues relating to science, research and development” is a far cry from Wallander’s sect, a member of which was booted out of the school where he taught, for attempting to present the creationist view in a biology class…

So. Breivik is Norwegian, and wrote his manifesto in English. Henning Mankell, the author of the Wallander novels, is Swedish, and his novels have been brought into Enlgish and transformed into dramatic scripts for the TV Series. I don’t believe the words “cultural Christian” are to be found in the English translation of the novel, Before the Frost. But I do think I’ll be checking closely to see what meaning of the phrase is intended, if I run across it again in my studies of new religious movements, terrorists and other outliers.

It appears to be somewhat more ambiguous than I’d thought at first.

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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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