[ by Charles Cameron — do you suppose trees only prostrate before God, Q 55.6, during high winds? ]
This admirable United Nations goal gains Taliban support..
The Taliban, in turn, have the encouragement of the Prophet:
The Prophet (pbuh) said:”If the Hour is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.”
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.”
[ by Charles Cameron — counterpoint: giving all voices a fair hearing. even when conflicting ]
I try to avoid taking political sides in American politics, partly because I’m a guest here and it seems only polite and wise to leave such matters to my hosts, and partly because bridge-building is the therapeutic method of choice in times of division and conflict. Keeping to a middle path may be something of a high-wire act, though, and is seldom popular wit those on either side.
I went looking for a quote that expresses the idea that this kind of middle way can get you killed, and my friends offered me a variety of possible items including Jim Hightower saying:
There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.
At the Liberation, he wrote (in Arthur Goldhammer’s translation):
Now that we have won the means to express ourselves, our responsibility to ourselves and to the country is paramount. . . . The task for each of us is to think carefully about what he wants to say and gradually to shape the spirit of his paper; it is to write carefully without ever losing sight of the urgent need to restore to the country its authoritative voice. If we see to it that that voice remains one of vigor, rather than hatred, of proud objectivity and not rhetoric, of humanity rather than mediocrity, then much will be saved from ruin.
Responsibility, care, gradualness, humanity—even at a time of jubilation, these are the typical words of Camus, and they were not the usual words of French political rhetoric. The enemy was not this side or that one; it was the abstraction of rhetoric itself. He wrote, “We have witnessed lying, humiliation, killing, deportation, and torture, and in each instance it was impossible to persuade the people who were doing these things not to do them, because they were sure of themselves, and because there is no way of persuading an abstraction.”
and the most scriptural from Scott McW, Revelation 3.14-16:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
John Messer catches the perspective I’m coming from when he comments:
One limitation perhaps is our framing of the challenge as a dichotomy rather than a 360 POV or perhaps a sphere of alternatives. In mediation one always looks for the unifying value that embraces all.
It seems harder and harder to present both sides of en ever-more-violently polarized situation without taking fire from each side — so I’d ask you to read what follows (and my posts on similar topics) as attempts at that unifying balance, rather than as statements of my own preferences.. which do exist, and no doubt can be glimpsed, but are not what I’m trying to propagate with my writings, at least thus far..
Consider these two opinions of Trump aide Sebastian Gorka — each the opinion of a valued friend:
The two phrases are indeed close parallels –n but obviously the Nazi analogy is one that (a) members of the never Trump faction feel a strong urge to explore, and (b) which is liable to close the ears of the pro Trump faction to any logic it might possess.
How do we hear both sides of so fraught an issue?
How do we retain awareness of that superbly humble and nuanced insight of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.
[ by Charles Cameron — For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in ]
It is, as you’ll discover, the only Shakespearean speech we possess in Shakespeare‘s own hand, and a mighty on at that. I’ll present the video first, and then the text so you can follow along should you so choose.
Sir Thomas More: Act 2, Scene 4
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
[ .. ] O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
[ .. ] You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.
[ by Charles Cameron — overstatement & correction in a Foreign Policy subtitle, more ]
I believe it was the science fictioneer James Blish who first brought the idea of testing up to breaking point, but not beyond — or shall we call that, testing that’s asymptotic to one’s breaking point? — in Black Easter and Day after Judgment.
In those two novels, Blish describes a concordat between angelic and demonic forces, in which the devils can claim no soul for their own if they have tested that soul beyond its capacity, nor can the angels claim any soul for their own unless that soul has been tested up to that limit..
It’s a fascinating premise, and one that finds echoes in both the New Testament and Quran.
In the New Testament we read, for instance:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [James 1:2-4]
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.. [Corinthians 10:13]
Similarly in the Qur’an we find:
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.. [Qur’an 2.155]
Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease. [Qur’an 65.7]
Bearing all of which in mind, observe the subtle change in subtitle observable between this Foreign Policy tweet (“scouring”):
and the subtitle as it now stands on the FP page itself (“digging through”):
Cole Bunzel‘s article deserves your attention — it’s just that subtitle I’m a bit annoyed by.
It really doesn’t take must “scouring” of the Qur’an to discover that trials and setbacks are part of the divine plan — and that faith, patience, endurance are what will get one through them.
To my way of thinking, ‘digging through” is a clear improvement on “scouring” — but what’s really happening here is that ISIS propagandists are swapping out more immediately optimistic quotes for quotes that are better adapted to the long haul.
That, I think, is what Bunzel is getting at here, just as that is why the IS English language magazine is no longer called Dabiq, but Rumiyah instead.
It’s not a big mystery — they’re just picking their scriptural quotes to fit the changing situation.
Edited to add:
I’m happy, but in no way surprised, to report that the subtitle in question was an editorial one, not the work of Cole Bunzel.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.