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Ukraine, The, unh?

Friday, February 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — when the definite article is simply too definitive — and how about The Levant? ]
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In my ongoing, if pretty much one-sided, convo with Marc Andreessen [1, 2, 3], I’ve been arguing for Twitter to offer a format for DoubleTweeting. People do it anyway, because it’s a neat way of raising questions or making points — but it would be nice to have a format that made it both easy and elegant, and thus expand the practice. Today gave us another example of what I’ll call, for want of a better term, DoubleTweeting in the Wild:

That was tweeted on February 18, 2015.

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I’d actually like to suggest that Vox isn’t dumb, at least as far as these two tweets are concerned — it’s learning.

Jimmy Princeton had to dig back to April 2014 to find Ezra Klein‘s use of “the Ukraine”

and he then compares it unfavorably with Max Fisher ten months later, ie two days ago, on February 18, 2015 — the same day on which he posted his own DoubleTweet:

Even more to the point, Fisher’s post on the importance of the distinction between “The Ukraine” and “Ukraine” was posted on Vox on September 3rd, 2014, so they hadn’t even issued their own warning at the time Klain tweeted his needless “The”.

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Cheryl Rofer had to teach me the distinction, and language being language, I still can’t promise I’ll get it right every time — old habits die hard. But for the record, here are the first paras of Fisher’s Vox “card” giving the reason for the change in name

It used to be “the Ukraine,” but after breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991 the name changed to just “Ukraine.” That distinction actually turns out to be pretty important for understanding the current crisis.

Ukraine has a very long history of being subjugated by outside powers, and a very short history of national independence. That may actually be why the country became known as “the Ukraine,” which many historians think meant “the borderland” in the language of ancient Slavs (it may also mean “the homeland,” a theory that Ukrainian nationalists understandably prefer). In other words, it may have been called “the” because it was considered more of a geographic region than an independent country, and one defined by its in-between-ness.

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Having said all that, I’m still grateful to Jimmy Princeton for illustrating the sort of use a DoubleTweet can be put to. And I’ll try to get my own wording right in future, now I’m reminded I haven’t always done so in the past.

Unholy: perhaps it’s a useful word

Friday, January 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — when religion casts a long and violent shadow ]
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unholy cover
cover art for the Unholy album, New Life behind Closed Eyes

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Unholy may prove to be a very useful word, I think.

It’s not secular, it’s not irreligious, it doesn’t lack for some sort of supernatural influence — in fact it fits right in with the metaphysical implications of such Biblical phrases as (Revelation 12.7):

there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels

and (Ephesians 6.12):

we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

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Because, I am arguing, it is neither secular nor irreligious, it fits perfectly, I’d say, the kinds of situation we’re in so freuqnetly, globally, of religiously motivated group violence.

The word jihad — besides focusing entirely on Islamic variants, when in fact Buddhist, Hindu and Christian militians are also in evidence — concedes too much to those who regard their warfare as holy, divinely sanctioned, while other terms make things sound secular and almost normal, as if politics without the religious booster was all we are talking about.

BrutaL and spiritual, spiritual and brutal on both sides — in the Central African Republic, for instance:

It was March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka swept into the riverside capital, Bangui, from the northeast. President François Bozizé fled as a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder got underway. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia soon proclaimed himself the successor; he would later lose control of his ranks and an attempt that fall to disband them would do little to stop the atrocities.

At the same time, groups of militias called anti-balaka had begun to form and train and retaliate against Séléka. Their name in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”; their fighters are comprised of ex-soldiers, Christians and animists, who think magic will protect them. They’re adorned with amulets to ward off attacks and fight with hunting rifles, poison-tipped arrows and machetes.

Amulets and machetes.. warriors and angels.

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Maybe we should say “unholy warriors” and “unholy wars” rather than “holy warriors” or “jihadis” — and “unholy monks” for the Burmese mobsters in saffron robes.

And I’d reserve the use of the term for situations in whiuch at least one side in a conflict openly avows religious motivation. Someone making a treaty someone else feels is foolish or dangerous simply doesn’t meet the bar.

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It’s worth considering the Unholy CD cover art alongside two other recent images:

Moebius Floating City

and:

Wild-Hunt-602

And about that top image from the Unholy album, just so you know:

UNHOLY present their Prosthetic Records debut, a metal massacre fueled with down-tuned guitars, double bass and deep grooves akin to the sounds of Entombed, Crowbar and later Carcass, with members having been in bands like Santa Sangre, Another Victim and Path Of Resistance.

Pinker, Blake and Moebius

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — looks like I’ll have an “Author’s blog” up soon to accompany a book I’m working on, and it’ll be called “Seeing Double” — which is what this post is about ]
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Steven Pinker, I’m sorry to say, appears to be one of those

One can imagine a world in which oracles, soothsayers, prophets, popes, visionaries, imams, or gurus have been vouchsafed with the truth which only they possess and which the rest of us would be foolish, indeed, criminal, to question. History tells us that this is not the world we live in. Selfproclaimed truthers have repeatedly been shown to be mistaken — often comically so — by history, science, and common sense.

The characters I’m interested in here are the visionaries – and my point is that truth as fact is not the only truth there is.

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Can “history, science and common sense” really detract from the “truth” of this image by Blake?

Blake_De_antro_nympharum_Tempera_Arlington_Court_Devon

or this, by Moebius?

Moebius Floating City

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Pinker is interesting — that single para of his just gave me a chance to rant — so let me return you to his whole piece.

I have other disagreements with him, no doubt, but he’s a mind to be engaged with.

Brief brief: of binding and loosing

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — really just a note to myself, but you may read it over my shoulder ]
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Joas Wagemakers, blogging on Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State at the Washington Post, was talking about the “caliphate” today, and as usual, I went off on my own DoubleQuoting tangent:

SPEC DQ bind and loose

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Here’s Wagemakers’s para that triggered the above:

In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria set itself apart from most other radical Islamist groups by actually settling in a certain territory and establishing a state there. The group even declared a caliphate on June 29 and changed its name simply to the Islamic State (IS). Even al-Qaeda, which has long had similar ambitions to establish a caliphate encompassing all Muslims, has never achieved this. In its justification for the announcement of its caliphate, IS has made use of classical Islamic concepts: its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been vetted by a group of scholars described as “the people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), was found by them to be a pious Muslim ruler who fit all the criteria for a caliph and was therefore worthy of believers’ oath of allegiance (baya).

Do I detect an echo here, between the two phrases — or is the concept of loosing and binding so basic to human experience that it crops up all over?

It’s a question at the intersection of two of my fields of special interest — depth psychology and cultural anthro — see for example Anthony Stevens, writing under the subtitle Archetypes versus cultural transmission:

Essentially, the theory can be stated as a psychological law: whenever a phenomenon is found to be characteristic of all human communities, it is an expression of an archetype of the collective unconscious. It is not possible to demonstrate that such universally apparent phenomena are exclusively due to archetypal determinants or entirely due to cultural diffusion, because in all probability both are involved. However, the likelihood is that there will be a strong bias for those phenomena which are archetypally determined to diffuse more readily and more lastingly than those that are not.

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Now go read Wagemakers.

King

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — my bilingual six-letter DoubleQuote for the day ]
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SPEC DQ MLK Melek

in the upper panel, in Hebrew, the word MeLeK. I’ve put the three consonants in capitals down here, and the vowels in lower case, but it’s a three letter word as you can see above, and the letters are (from right to left) MLK.

Which is interesting.

Because in translation, it means, as does the lower panel: King.


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