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Celebrations of joy as a cover for grievous harm

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — the holidays are rough on those who are depressed, psychologically, and physically on women abused by men ]
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It’s striking how the great celebrations of joy — here, and in India — are accompanied by some of the most heinous and grievous acts of violence against women, and depression accentuated by rejoicing:

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of innocence, in the form of the Christ child, into a corrupt world, and contains within it the seed of his crucifixion; Holi celebrates the young prince Prahlad, who worshiped God while his father, thinking himself Lord of the Universe, could not stand his son’s unwillingness to worship him and put him to the fire..

Two martyrs, therefore — and we rejoice in their faithfulness even unto death.

**

Sources:

  • Guardian, Christmas offers no respite from domestic abuse
  • Paper, How Holi Became the Festival of Assault in India</li>
  • **

    Consider this story of Claire, a pseudonym, a real person, a woman:

    Claire and her eight-year-old daughter are two of the more than 6,000 women and children being supported by domestic violence charity Refuge this Christmas. It will be the second Christmas they spend in a refuge while they wait for permanent accommodation.

    When they fled to a women’s refuge 18 months ago, Claire left a note for the husband who’d abused her for 23 years: “I’m really, really sorry, please don’t be angry with me. I just can’t take any more of the control and abuse. We will be ok, we’re in a safe place – please don’t try and find me.”

    Or this, from India, describing Holi festival, which is celebrated with the throwing of colored powders — and as we shall see, drinking %i(bhang), a cannabis drink properly associated with the %i(sadhus) or ascetics who worship Shiva:

    A popular way of perpetuating assault is through drugging victims, often with %i(bhang), a milky cannabis infused concoction that’s widely circulated during the festival as a ‘party drink.’ The taste of the drink is so similar to other softer beverages — like %i(thandai) (a spicy milk-based cold drink) — that they’re often interchangeable. Victims unaware of this are often offered %i(bhang) and told it’s something else, or their drinks are laced with cannabis or other substances to make them more vulnerable to assault.

    It’s a well-known problem that’s been discussed over the years, with local advertisements, publications and YouTube channels addressing its causes and effects with PSAs and think pieces. In many cases, stories of harassment have also sparked wide outrage on social media and led to protests. But who’s listening? The outcries are hardly taken seriously because in the end, it’ll ruin the ‘spirit of the holiday.’ The pain and violent assault of women is diminished and disguised in the spirit of the season and a range of bright colors.

    **

    As, in personal psychology, many people will cover depression with a facade of cheerfulness, so it appears that in social psychology, group celebrations may be used as covers for acts of frustrated or rage-filled violence, notably by men and against women.

    Running of the bulls, running of the cows

    Monday, September 9th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — until we understand suffering as devotion, where are we? ]
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    The running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, celebrates the martyrdom of San Fermin:

    Ernest Hemingway on the San Fermin fiesta:

    The fiesta was really started. It kept up day and night for seven days. The dancing kept up, the drinking kept up, the noise went on. The things that happened could only have happened during a fiesta. Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences. It seemed out of place to think of consequences during the fiesta. All during the fiesta you had the feeling even when it was quiet, that you had to shout any remark to make it heard. It was the same feeling about any action. It was a fiesta and it went on for seven days.

    [ .. ]

    The fiesta and its requisite state of constant drunkenness is a time of “unreal” events and chaos—a time in which our characters let go of any sober sense of right and wrong they might still possess.

    **

    India: Watch men get TRAMPLED by herd of cows for Diwali:

    Dozens of men in the central Indian village of Ujjain Taluk allowed themselves to be trampled by stampeding cows Friday as part of Govardhan Puja, the fourth day of Diwali.

    Locals pray for their wishes to be granted by ‘Lord of Animals’ Lord Pashupatinath and in return perform the cow-trampling ritual as a mark of gratitude.

    Despite the ritual having being performed for hundreds of years, allegedly not one man has been seriously injured as of yet.

    **

    in the running of the bulls, the idea is to avoid being gored: in the running of the cows, the idea is to be trampled.

    Religion.

    A couple of instances of Christianity in the world around us

    Monday, September 2nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — anointing Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong ]
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    Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.

    **

    Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro [at approx 3.50]–

    Remember the laying on of hands over Donald Trump? The overarching authority of religion has Trump bow his head, but sets Bolsonaro on his knees! —

    — and religion can be liberating —

    — That’s a crowd of protesters in Hong Kong singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”.

    Remarkable.

    **

    From Reuters in June:

    Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ an unlikely anthem of Hong Kong protests

    For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.

    It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.

    “This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students

    The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —

    The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.

    “As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.

    The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.

    **

    Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.

    No doubt there are others. In Nepal, there’s the tantric cultus of the goddess Kubjikaa. What’s religion up to in your neck of the woods?

    Invisibility, Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, and the goddess Kubjikaa

    Saturday, August 31st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — it’s like a waterfall ]
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    It’s like a waterfall: you stumble on an idea that comes from the mouth of Doug Coe, describing the principle behind the influence of The Family, of which he was the long-time leader —

    — and it turns out the same principle is referenced in an article on surveillance in Defense One

    — only to re-emerge in Dr Mark SG Dyczkowski‘s work on the tradition, philosophy and practice of the goddess Kubjikaa.

    **

    There’s clearly a principle at work here that could find application in many fields, contexts, silos — and the concatenation of such instances is itself a demonstration of the value of silo-breaking thinking.

    FWIW, I wouldn’t have so much as heard of the Goddess Kubjikaa were it not for my half-century friendship with Mark Dyczkowski, to whom I owe so much, and into the waters of whose scholarship so deep I have dipped no more than a toe.

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    Climate change & its impacts, rippling out across all our futures, 1

    Thursday, August 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — part 1 of this two-part post deals with the impact of climate change on pilgrimages, and on the Hajj in particular ]
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    The Hajj, Mecca

    **

    Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba here in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

  • Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels
  • Here’s the abstract:

    The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

    That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman..

    told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

    What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

    From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

  • Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible
  • **

    Other readings:

  • New Scientist, Global warming could make Hajj impossible later this century
  • IslamiCity, Mecca: Climate Change to Bring ‘Extreme’ Heat
  • MIT News, Study: Climate change could pose danger for Muslim pilgrimage
  • **

    The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

    I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

    Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

    This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

    Kumbh Mela:

    Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

    Arba’een:

    Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

    Papal Mass

    Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

    Makara Jyothi

    India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

    Bishwa Ijtema:

    Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

    [ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

    Umrah:

    Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

    Kalachakra,:

    Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group>

    **

    The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

    In the second part of this post, I will consider the “wider ripples” by which climate change intersects and overlaps with other concerns, chief among them the issue of sovereignty and the nation state.


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