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Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, the equation

Monday, April 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a question of value ]
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Footprints: Saving artefacts in Afghanistan

The Buddha rests quietly in a corner of the National Museum of Afghanistan.

While a group of Afghan restorers — with more than four decades of experience between them — work to restore similar artefacts, the Buddha, dating back to at least the second century BC, sits cross-legged, arms folded, awaiting its public debut in the city.

The statue, set to be unveiled to the public in the coming weeks, is a testament to the rich history of a nation that has seen various empires and conquerors pass through its land.

“There are artefacts in every corner of this country,” said Fahim Rahimi, the director of the National Museum of Afghanistan. However, even the layers of sand, silt and time have not been able to keep these artefacts safe from the forces of conflict and capitalism.

[ .. ]

The Buddha itself, discovered near the nation’s largest copper mine, is an embodiment of the duelling threats facing the physical remnants of Afghanistan’s cultural history. The statue, sitting in a reconstructed stupa, was found in 2012 in the Mes Aynak area of the eastern province of Logar. Mes Aynak, meaning literally “the little copper source,” is home to a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city filled with ancient statues, manuscripts, frescoes, shrines and stupas. It is also at the centre of a $3billion Chinese mining contract signed in 2007.

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William Bruce My NameSake and presumed Clansman Cameron wrote “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Equation implies equals. Here we have a tug of cash-and-peace.

Footnoted readings 03 – Violence, theirs and ours

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on analysis by symmetry, asymmetry, comparison, form ]
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Vijay Prashad

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Vijay Prashad writes in Jadaliyya under the title Violence: Theirs and Ours and sub-head Binaries:

I have spent decades thinking about the asymmetry of reactions to these sorts of incidents in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I have written about them, indignation as the mood of these essays. But this is spitting into the wind. It is futile on Facebook, for instance, to make the suggestion that the 2016 Karrada bombings in Baghdad (Iraq), which killed over 300 people, should have driven people to turn their profile pictures into Iraqi flags (as the world had done after the 2015 Paris attacks, when 137 people were killed). “Je Suis Charlie” is easy to write, but not #AmiAvijit. Eyes roll when these gestures are urged, whether through bewilderment at their meaning or exhaustion at their sanctimoniousness. After all, the eye-roll suggests, how could one compare a satirical French magazine with obscure Bangladeshi bloggers who have been hacked to death? It takes an immense act of will to push editors to run stories on tragedies that seem distant even from the places where they occur. All eyes focus on the latest attack in Molenbeek, but few turn with the same intensity to look at the tragedies in Beirut or in Cairo.

Okay, what interests me here is his mode of analysis by form: Prashad pays specific and repeated attention to binaries — symmetries and asymmetries. I think that’s a key move in analytic terms, and you can see it in play, again, in the way he phrases his concluding paragraph:

From Lord Baring’s Violent Shock to George W. Bush’s Shock and Awe: this cannot be terrorism. It is the business of rational states. Terrorism is what the others do. Always.

Violent Shock :: Shock and Awe.

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Agree or disagree with Prashad’s analyses as you will, his method is one that I too have been focusing on here at ZP for a while now — that of emphasis on form as a clue to analytic significance.

Brutal Times 01

Friday, September 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — “You’re not haunted by the war, Dr Watson. You miss it.” Yes, this will be a series. ]
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brutal-times-dq

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Part of what’s interesting about the upper image above, the one of a woman (presumably) wearing a burqa and holding a gun, is the number of times it has been used by the Daily Mirror — in articles on such topics as:

ISIS bans the BURKA after ‘veiled female assassin’ kills two terrorist commanders in Iraq
Desperate ISIS commanders now sending female fighters to die in combat
See US army taunt ISIS with special message in footage of coalition airstrike
Hundreds of ISIS brides sent for COMBAT TRAINING in Libya after being ‘promoted’ from role as wives

The legend under that last one reads “ISIS is using hundreds of women on the frontline in Libya” — which might lead one to believe the photo was taken there, in Libya. Why, then, would it also be applicable to two pieces about ISIS in Iraq?

That image is a glorious stimulus for hatred, though, which seems to mean it bears frequent repetition. And guess what, it might have been shot with a model, a male model for that matter, in Brixton, not Libya or Afghanistan (where blue burqas are common) or Iraq…

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Um Hanadi (the cook, whom you’ll notice, lower image above, does not wear a burqa) is on Facebook, CNN reports:

After listing all the attacks against her, and all the loved ones lost to ISIS, Um Hanadi said: “I fought them. I beheaded them. I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies.”

She made no excuses, nor attempted to rationalize this. It was delivered as a boast, not a confession.

“This is all documented,” she said. “You can see it on my Facebook page.”

So we checked. Among many pictures of her with her dead husbands, fighters and generals, there was a photo of her in the same black combat fatigues and headscarf holding what appeared to be a freshly severed head. Another showed two severed heads in a cooking pot. In a third photograph, she is standing among partially-burned corpses. It’s impossible to verify whether the photos are authentic or Photoshopped, but we got the point.

Two questions for moralists / ethicists:

  • Is a woman killing ISIS militants morally or ethically any different from a man doing so?
  • Is a woman who cooks the heads of her and our deceased enemies a desirable ally?
  • **

    Hey, that Express piece about the “veiled female assassin” who killed two ISIS militants even gets to offer you this tasty view, with the accomnpanying legend “A woman wears a veil, which is now being banned in parts of northern Iraq”:

    muslim-woman-wearing-black-veil

    Now, is that hot, or what?

    **

    Sources:

  • Iraqi News, Veiled woman kills 2 ISIS militants in Mosul
  • CNN, The Iraqi housewife who ‘cooked the heads’ of ISIS fighters
  • Orlando Tweets Two

    Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — on a variety of other perspectives ]
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    Once again, my point is that there’s a whole lot of going on going on, and it’s worth getting a wide-angle view.. which means multiple perspectives, including those not your own:

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    Politicking:

    Joshua Green, Trump seems to regard Omar Mateen as “Afghan” in the same way Judge Curiel was “Mexican”: foreign/un-American, even though both born in US
    Charlene Deveraturda, The Atlantic’s ISIS Expert Graeme Wood Slams Trump For “Hurt[ing] The Fight Against ISIS” With Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

    Both Al-Jazeera‘s and Joshua Green‘s tweets offer us examples of DoubleQuotes thinking.

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    Guns:

    Program on extremism, ‘Orlando Shooter Legally Bought Guns Despite Previous Flags by FBI’
    Rob Crilly, Orlando shows arc again. Hate-filled young man with access to guns picks his victims and then selects poisonous ideology to add “meaning”
    Bill Maher, #Orlando Conservatives:”Don’t say it has anything to do with guns!” Liberals:”Don’t say it has anything to do with Islam!”
    Maajid Nawaz, Saying this has nothing to do with Islam (libs) is as ignorant as saying this has nothing to do with guns (cons).Both need reform
    Piers Morgan, Obama’s about to make the same speech he’s made about guns 20 times in his presidency. Just more pointless rhetoric, sadly.
    Steven Crowder, Orlando timeline: Anti-Gay Muslim commits mass terrorism. American gun-owners condemn it. Liberals try to take their guns

    **

    Islamic responses:

    Shadi Hamid, Muslim organizations in the United States unequivocally condemned the Orlando assault
    Usama Hasan, Does #Islam condemn #gays to death?

    and in ISIS perspective:

    Cole Bunzel, ISIS’s A’maq news agency claims Florida attack was “carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State”
    Will McCants, ISIS uses term “fighter” for Orlando attacker rather than “soldier” (Paris/Brussels) or “supporter” (San Bernardino) for whatever it’s worth

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    And finally, barely mentioned in the welter of opinions about Orlando — the other shoe:

    JM Berger, We may have narrowly escaped having two very similar massacres on the same day, apparently unconnected
    JM Berger, The fact that one was prevented and one was not is largely a trick of fate. We need robust reporting on LA incident as well

    Rumi One: the poet and his poems

    Sunday, June 12th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — first of four posts on the poet Jalal al-Din Rumi, hugely popular, perhaps soon to be the pivot of a blockbuster movie ]
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    Rumi has been in the news recently and in Rumi Three I’ll say a bit about why. But first, in this post, Rumi One, I’ll say something about the poet and his poems — leaving his ineffable spiritual attainments ineffable, since if they’re anything, they’re ineffable — and in Rumi Two I’ll consider a current attack on Rumi and “Rumism” in Turkey, little observed in the western press, which may be of interest to the poet’s many followers here. Rumi Four will contain some recommended readings.

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    Let’s start with some praise of Rumi from Will McCants:

    It’s a powerful poet who turns a scholar to the study of his language, the better to read him.

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    I’ve been reading Rumi at least since the first Arberry translations of his Mystical Poems came out in 1968, and in the mid-eighties between then and now had the delight and privilege of doing a joint poetry reading with his more recent translator / popularizer, Coleman Barks, at Lake Tahoe.

    I’m in no way surprised — but yes, delighted — that a scholar of McCants’ stature should appreciate Rumi so warmly, and envious of his ability to read the Divan, the Masnavi, the Discourses in the original. Did not the great poet Jami write of Rumi’s Masnavi that it is “the Qur’an in the Persian tongue”?

    **

    Here’s the poem with which Chicago University Press introduces Arberry’s Mystical Poems of Rumi:

    My verse resembles the bread of Egypt—night passes over it, and you cannot eat it any more.
    Devour it the moment it is fresh, before the dust settles upon it.
    Its place is the warm climate of the heart; in this world it dies of cold.
    Like a fish it quivered for an instant on dry land, another moment and you see it is cold.
    Even if you eat it imagining it is fresh, it is necessary to conjure up many images.
    What you drink is really your own imagination; it is no old tale, my good man.

    Set beside this, another comment of Rumi’s, considering his poetry:

    I am affectionate to such a degree that when these friends come to me, for fear that they may be wearied I speak poetry so that they may be occupied with that. Otherwise, what have I to do with poetry? By Allah, I care nothing for poetry, and there is nothing worse in my eyes than that. It has become incumbent upon me, as when a man plunges his hands into tripe and washes it out for the sake of a guest’s appetite, because the guest’s appetite is for tripe.

    The secular mind may think of that second quote as something of a pose, imagining the poetry of a great poet to be the poet’s own primary concern — but the poems of Rumi themselves, like the poems of St John of the Cross, speak of a love of the divine of which the poetry itself can be but an offshoot, a byproduct.

    **

    There are none so happy, I would suggest, as those who keep company with the lovers of the divine beloved, and it is that companionship that I see depicted in the poem of Rumi’s I most treasure:

    Little by little the drunkards congregate, little by little the wine-worshippers arrive.
    The heart-cherishers coquettishly come along the way, the rosy-cheeked ones are arriving from the garden.
    Little by little from the world of being and not-being the not-beings have departed and the beings are arriving.
    All with skirts full of gold as a mine are arriving for the sake of the destitute.
    The lean and sick from the pasturage of love are arriving fat and hale.
    The souls of the pure ones like the rays of the sun are arriving from such a height to the lowly ones.
    Blessed is that garden, where, for the sake of the Mary’s, new fruits are arriving even in winter.
    Their origin is grace, and their return is grace; even from the garden to the garden they are coming.

    Indeed, that grace, that garden is woven throughout Rumi’s poetry:

    The springtide of lovers has come, that this dust bowl may become a garden; the proclamation of heaven has come, that the bird of the soul may rise in flight.

    And where is that garden, when is that springtide of lovers?

    Alfred North Whitehead was thinking of education as a stepped-down version of that same garden when he wrote:

    The present contains all that there is. It is holy ground; for it is the past, and it is the future. … The communion of saints is a great and inspiring assemblage, but it has only one possible hall of meeting, and that is, the present, and the mere lapse of time through which any particular group of saints must travel to reach that meeting-place, makes very little difference.


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