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Paris, Charb quotes Zapata or Sartre — or Hobbes?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — chasing a wild, but eventually mummified and golden, goose ]
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quote-it-is-better-to-be-the-widow-of-a-hero-dolores-ibarruri

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Richard Landes wrote a piece on Paris the other day for the LA Times Review of Books’ Marginalia blog, in which he said:

In the words of the martyr in chief, “Charb,” taken up as the manif’s motto: “Better to die standing than live on one’s knees.”

Indeed, in an interview with Le Monde, Charb is quoted as having said:

Je n’ai pas de gosses, pas de femme, pas de voiture, pas de crédit. C’est peut-être un peu pompeux ce que je vais dire, mais je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux.

Stéphane Charbonnier — Charb — the editor of Charlie Hebdo, lived those words. But was he quoting?

**

There’s a passage in Joseph Heller‘s Catch 22:

“They are going to kill you if you don’t watch out, and I can see now that you are not going to watch out. Why don’t you use some sense and try to be more like me? You might live to be a hundred and seven, too.”

“Because it’s better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees,” Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. “I guess you’ve heard that saying before.”

“Yes, I certainly have,” mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. “But I’m afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one’s feet than die on one’s knees. That is the way the saying goes.”

“Are you sure?” Nately asked with sober confusion. “It seems to make more sense my way.”

“No, it makes more sense my way. Ask your friends.”

**

The quote has been attributed, with greater or lesser validity, to:

  • Albert Camus
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • In Australian jest, it has been attributed to Thomas Hobbes:

    In the December 1982 edition of Rolling Stone, Thomas Hobbes published a scathing review of Midnight Oil’s ‘10-to-1’ album. Midnight Oil, Hobbes claimed, were corrupting Australian youth with such politically incendiary tracks as ‘Short Memory’ and ‘US Forces’. But it was the lyrics to ‘The Power and the Passion’ with which Hobbes took particular issue, writing:

    We hear that “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. How foolish! What vainglory! Who penned such rot? Was it Hirst, Moginie or Garrett? Have The Oils taken leave of their senses? Anybody who has lived through the English Civil War and who can ratiocinate knows that the opposite is true. Standing up for political ideals can only lead to political subversion, civil unrest and, ultimately, civil war. And with civil war comes a return to the State of Nature — a state in which all persons, upright, kowtowed and procumbent, face the constant threat of death; a state in which, as I have argued elsewhere (see my Leviathan (Bohn, 1651)), life for all is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. All things considered, therefore, it’s better to live on one’s knees than to die on one’s feet.

    In this entry I’ll give a few working examples of political idealism and political realism before moving onto Hobbes’ criticism of the former and his argument that domestic peace and commodious living require us to forfeit our political ideals lest they undermine the sovereign’s authority.

    **

    Jennifer Speake, in A Dictionary of Proverbs, attributes the quote to Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria, in a speech given on September 3rd, 1936. La Pasionaria was a Basque, and a Republican in the Spanish Civil War, to whom the similar but so different quote at the head of this post is also attributed. Speake goes on to list Emiliano Zapata as another to whom the quote is often attributed, and to list various later uses.

    And hey, the quote has also been attributed toL

  • Che Guevara
  • **

    Okay, so who actually died on his knees? Tutankhamun, apparently:

    The pharaoh’s injuries have been matched to a specific scenario – with car-crash investigators creating computer simulations of chariot accidents. The results suggest a chariot smashed into him while he was on his knees – shattering his ribs and pelvis and crushing his heart.

    Tutankhamun 602

    No, no, please don’t go zones

    Saturday, January 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a thought-teasing DoubleQuote, Daniel Pipes meets Hakim Bey ]
    .

    I thought it might be interesting to compare Daniel Pipesrecalibration of the term he invented, No Go Zones, to accord with the French concept of Sensitive Urban Zones (upper panel, below):

    SPEC DQ SUZ TAZ

    and contrast it with Hakim Bey‘s term, Temporary Autonomous Zones, as described by John Jordan (lower panel, above).

    **

    What say you?

    I believe we’re in John Robb‘s analytic territory here.

    Not Paris, much nearer home

    Sunday, January 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — religious satire USA, plus two Charlie Hebdo resources ]
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    Jesus dinosaur detail 602

    **

    I hadn’t realized that comic book satire had entered the religion vs science debate — foolish of me, it’s an obvious medium for the task:

    jesus-and-darwin 602

    And here for total impact is the full page of Jesus riding the dinosaur (detail above), text included:

    jesusdinosaur large

    I have to say, neither these nor the Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten cartoons disturb me personally — but in our discussions of free speech and blasphemy, I think the voices of those who may be offended deserve a hearing.

    **

    Sources and Resources:

  • Popperfont, Did Jesus ride on a dinosaur?
  • Beliefnet, Jesus and Darwin fight
  • Daily Beast, 16 most ‘shocking’ Charlie Hebdo covers
  • Understanding Charlie Hebdo, Charlie Hebdo’s satire
  • Paris, a literary DoubleQuote

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — I was tempted to call this post “Hebdoevsky” but resisted ]
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    SPEC DQ Hebdo Dosto

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    Today I was reminded of Dostoevsky‘s Grand Inquisitor, portrayed here in some apparently rare 1975 footage by Sir John Gielgud:

    A tip of the hat, then, to Akil N. Awan, whose post The Charlie Hebdo Attack: The Double Alienation Dilemma suggested this DoubleQuote to me.

    **

    Interestingly, The Grand Inquisitor can now be read online in at least three translations:

  • HP Blavatsky, which should be of interest to occultists
  • Constance Garnett, the old classic standby translation, nicely formatted, and
  • Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, horribly formatted, reputedly the best modern version
  • Paris, the Prophet and his veiled face

    Sunday, January 11th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — the role of iconography vs idolatry within Islam and Christianity ]
    .

    Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tweeted an image of Muhammad today:

    This image, according to Wikipedia, is not merely Persian but specifically Shiite, “reflecting the new, Safavid convention of depicting Muhammad veiled”. It is also non-satirical.

    As such, it is neither offensive in the sense of insulting the person of the Prophet, nor does it in fact show the features of his face, nor is it the product of the Sunni “mainstream” branch of Islam.

    **

    In considering the revulsion that many Muslims feel at the images of their Prophet in Charlie Hebdo, it may be helpful to understand the respect in which the Prophet is held within their faith.

    The Qur’an says of the Prophet:

    And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.

    Muhammad is sent “as a mercy”, and thus whatever representation of the Prophet, his words and deeds serves to carry human thought towards the divine participates in that divine mercy, whereas whatever representation scorns that mercy or merely distracts us from it is to be avoided.

    The normative manner in which the Prophet is represented within Islam, then, is abstract and calligraphic, with the artist showing devotion and respect for the Prophet through the care with which the work itself is endowed with beauty:

    412px-Hilye-i_serif_7

    Simpler, and in its own way no less beautiful, is this calligraphic representation of the Prophet’s name in tile from Samarkand:

    Muhammad_calligraphy_tile

    **

    Icon or idol?

    One facet of the controversy over Charlie Hebdo has to do, then, with a deep issue in representation, which crops up elsewhere in the jihadists’ relish in destroying “idols” — the Bamiyan Buddhas, yes, but also the tombs of Muslim prophets and saints; there has even been discussion within Saudi circles of the destruction on the Prophet’s tomb and relocation of his remains to an anonymous grave.

    Within Christianity, there have been those who encouraged the painting of icons, believing that they carry the minds and hearts of believers deep into the mysteries of faith — and those who would tear them down, holding them to be “graven images” (via Judaism, Exodus 20.4) that give mind and heart a resting place far short of those same mysteries: iconodules and iconoclasts.

    Wars have been fought in Christendom too over such questions [in both East and West].

    The great Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev‘s most celebrated icon is often referred to as The Trinity — though literally (or should I say, figuratively) speaking, it portrays the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18. 1-15):

    Rublev Trinity icon

    It is significant for our context that Rublev has not in fact attempted to portray the Trinity, a mystery deemed beyond human comprehension — the Athanasian Creed, speaking of the Three Persons in one God says explicitly “there are not three incomprehensibles .. but one incomprehensible” — but these three angels, considered as “types” or foreshadowings of the Trinity, which can therefore both veil and represent it.


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