View Full Version : The ism that dare not speak its name

5th Feb 2006, 16:12
As Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami put it, in Arabic of course,

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

but science has changed that. What is writ is now deleted in a split second. In a more spacious time, when thought was free:

"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd--
"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

That about describes it.

Over the gulf of years we can look on the Franco-Prussian War of 1970, World War I of 1914, and World War II of 1939, in perspective as the continuation of one civil war to fix the bounds of Europe, and who has the major influence in running it.

That war continues still but, in a reversal of Clausewitz, the combatants have gone from war to diplomacy as the battle-field. The human reality was always there, but the appearances deceived.

There was always another war, actual or potential, from beyond the Danube and the Mediterranean. Just as real. To learn of that we may look to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or the recent Decline and Fall of the Roman Church by Fr Malachi Martin, SJ (I bought my remaindered copy new for $2.50 in 1980 or so and now it sells in Amazon for up to $100.00), or a thousand other volumes, or we can even go to Constantinople and just look.

We may not talk about it, though.

As long ago as 1908, Mr Justice Phillimore observed in Rex v Boulter (1908), 72 J.P.188, that “a man is free to think, to speak and to teach what he pleases as to religious matters, though not as to morals”. We/you used to have the Lord’s Day Observance Act, from which practical consequences flowed. Many thought them undesirable, so the Act is no more. If I think that is a jolly good/bad thing, should I be allowed to say so?

There has not been a prosecution for blasphemy in England – my resources here tell me and I am open to correction – these hundred years, but now, Ah well, but now! Blasphemy against whom?

Blackstone a hundred years before that was quite hot on ‘... blafphemy against the Almighty, by denying his being or providence; or by contumelious reproaches of our faviour Christ. Whither alfo may be referred all profane fcoffing at the holy fcripture, or exposing it to contempt and ridicule. Thefe are offences punifhable at common law by fine and imprifonment, or other infamous corporal punishment: for chriftianity is part of the laws of England” (Vol IV, page 59).

Recognise anything? Not from Christianity. Heaven forbid. But from any other authority, never to be discussed?

5th Feb 2006, 16:22
...the Franco-Prussian War of 1970 Who won?! ;)

5th Feb 2006, 16:28
Okay,make it 1870. Who won? Too soon to say. Clemenceau thought he did. Hitler thought he did. Eisenhower was not sure it had ever been. Stalin thought he did. I would edit the date, but I don't know how to these days.

5th Feb 2006, 16:32
Perhaps GWB will win it and put that part of history to rest? :sad:

5th Feb 2006, 16:36
Much as, in common with so many here, I admire President Bush, I do think this one is beyond even him. Could be wrong, of course.

Mac the Knife
5th Feb 2006, 17:41
Mon cher Davaar,

Indeed, and your quote from the "Commentaries" is apt.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for Devlin's "The Enforcement of Morals"? I did send a couple of fulsome expressions to your real email address, but having received no reply, am uncertain that they were delivered.

The book itself lies by my pallet and I delve into it periodically.

There is much written there that is germane to the current furore.



5th Feb 2006, 18:00
It has certainly been my contention from personal observation that 'civilisations' are both in a continual state of flux, and, in continual contention with one another as to who of them are the 'most civilised'.

This inevitably descending into highly 'uncivilised' behaviour during the 'discussions'.

What then is written about the outcome being subject to many tears and much rewriting of exactly what happened to who, by whom, and why.

5th Feb 2006, 18:10
I don't care much for isms. And I've always understood that history does not record all events with accuracy. Ever since I was one: Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: "that all glory is fleeting..." :ok:

5th Feb 2006, 18:58
My dear Mac:

Thank you for your PM. I did receive it. My delay in replying comes from one point I wished particularly to address, but although that is my reason, it is not a sufficient justification. Tonight I shall attend to it.

Scarcely two years ago one would read positions here that if “they” come “here” and do not adapt to “our” ways, we shall send them "home". Some hope. These are less frequent now.

Now I cannot turn on the TV but I see faces twisted with rage at me, close enough, for I am “the West”. They sure seem to hate me, and this is not just my feminine side being sensitive. If I went to their land they would kill me, cut off my head with a blunt knife if I said a word of what I am thinking.

A little while ago I wrote a thread on the carpenter and carpentarianism, and how Dostoevsky made a tale within a tale about.the carpenter’s return and meeting with the Grand Inquisitor. What did Dostoevsky mean us to make of that story? Was the Grand Inquisitor bad and the carpenter good? Or good or bad in which contexts?

Fr Martin, SJ, in his book, oddly parallel in some ways to Dostoevsky, traces the same course, and he dates the union of God and Mammon from about
312, when Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge, thanks to Christ, as he thought. Through the reluctant Pope Miltiades and his not at all reluctant successor Silvester, within a century church and civil organisation were merged into one powerful system.

That union continued and strengthened. At first they quarrelled over how to elect a new pope, and then settled on vox populi vox dei, which continues through the centuries to Calvin, the Americans of 1776, the French of 1789, and the Reform Bill of 1832, and democracy.

It was Pope Leo I who stared down Attila the Hun in 452 and saved the structure. After Gregory the Great in the 7th century Europe was swept by Vandals, Goths, Lombards, Franks, about 10,000,000 of them. It took a thousand years to absorb them, in fact the process continues, and it was the Roman Church/Empire (of the West) that did it. Just to be clear, I am not a Roman Catholic.

From them we had Crusades, Renaissance, Chivalry, Commerce, Hospitals, Agricultural research, and learning. Two great external perils were the Vikings in the North and the Ummmm in the South. The Vikings were absorbed.

The first Crusade was 1095 to 1099. Yes, I know the Crusaders were not all Boy Scouts. My point is that in the 11th century they met the Saracens on pretty equal terms. You win some, you lose some.

What has happened since? Where has Christendom gone, and where has Ummmm gone? Which has the oil, and which develops it? Which fills the TV screen with the World Series and the European Cup, and which with faces contorted with rage, burning flags, cutting off hands and heads?

I was only once in Istanbul, but one main memory is that daggers were a top item of merchandise.

I fear a terrible time lies ahead of us, but what to do? Write here, maybe? Just shut up, hope it will all go away?

Before I post here I often look at the Author’s Apology for Pilgrim’s Progress:

“Well, when I had thus put mine ends together,
I showed them to others, that I might see whether
They would condemn them, or them justify:
And some said, Let them live; some, Let them die;
Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so;
Some said it might do good; others said, No”.

Over to you.

6th Feb 2006, 08:41
Fear not Davaar,
All that pent up hatred, rage and prejudice is born of weakness and lack of self belief, not the contrary.
Irrational, religious hatred is the most self destructive force and surely binds like minded humans on all sides who wish to see harmony prevail. After all, non moslems are the majority on this planet, and progress and education has seen off superstition and taboo for centuries. In the final analysis, the weakness of the Islamic radicals is their own inferiority complex and love of horrific psychological warfare. Ultimately, the sight of moslems (and their children) dressed as suicide bombers betrays the bankruptcy of their ideology and their total lack of values and regard for human life.
If even their own paltry existence is governed by such hatred of their fellow human beings, then history has proven that they too will go the way of all the world's mass murderers, past and present.

6th Feb 2006, 13:43
Is he another one of those kinky Brits who would f*ck eggs?

My present classmate is the lucky holder of Lebanese descent, adherence to the creed of Islam and a Danish passport. We agreed that he could cut out the middle-man and just set himself on fire. Sorted!

An interesting point, to me, is that present-day 'Fundamentalists' harp on about the Crusades, which were, indeed, pretty awful. Just look at what happened when that rabble reached Constantinople, before they had even got to grips with the supposed infidel enemy. Yuck! But to focus so exclusively on the Crusades is to ignore the great waves of Muslim conquest which swept west to finally reach the gates of Vienna on one side and the Pyrenees on the other side of western Europe. Or were those warriors winning by handing out fluffy toys to the kiddies and free tickets to the steam baths for their parents? I think there must have been a certain amount of violence involved there, too. Or is that okay because they were fighting in a good cause? Am I wrong to see a double standard being created?

Here in London we have just been treated to the sight of posters asking that people who insult Islam should be 'beheaded.' Unfortunately, that's probably something to be taken quite literally, so that it must amount to a violation of the right to free speech. But the Metropolitan Police seem to have been too busy worrying about their 'institutional racism' to do anything about that. Lucky they could find the time to arrest that one, solitary and rather quiet war protestor, just a few weeks ago. Another double standard?

I used to be on the verge of getting myself into big trouble in northern Nigeria when I would be spluttering at the sight of little girls marching off to Friday prayers who were the multiple wives of rich believers. When I say 'little' I mean 'pre-pubescent' and when I say 'wives' I mean that they were having to be patched up (by a Danish volunteer doctor, as it happens) after having been, more or less, raped. My FO just turned around to say, 'It's customary...' which meant, 'Shut up, before you get us both in trouble.'

Another time he told me that he would not be able to do a night-stop in Kano. I told him that our work sometimes interfered with family life, when he replied that, no, it was just that he didn't want to die. He was a Christian from Yorubaland and trouble, which could start at the drop of a hat in Kano, would have seen him being lynched, I suppose. I couldn't argue with that one, so that we flew back to Lagos and came back the next morning to pick our passengers up. What a crazy world!

That is not to say, in the case of Nigeria at least, that the violence always comes from the Muslim side. There it can come from any source at all, from a fender-bender in traffic right up to a purely religious quarrel, and from either side.

6th Feb 2006, 15:11
When newcomers, visitors or guests begin to march around one's home shouting swearing and generaly carrying on in a disruptive rude and generaly obnoxious manner, there arises a possibly general feeling in the homeowners mind that perhaps it's time for them to either learn restraint, conform to house behavior or to go home. Could that be unreasonable or is that just ****ism

Tricky Woo
6th Feb 2006, 15:11
One of the more interesting book I've read recently concerned the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, which relates to what looks very likely to have been the original World War (WW Zero?) during the 5th century BC.

Nothing less than the first recorded three way ideological war.

The protaganists (for those amongst us with a hazy recollection of history lessons learned on hot summer afternoons looking out of the school window) was the Athenian (fairly) democratic alliance, the Spartan alliance of (roughly) fascist dictatorships, and finally the Persian caliphate empire. To make a long 30 year story shorter, Athens quickly won conclusively, then Persia won inconclusively, then Athens won so conclusively that the bunting was going up and everything, and then Sparta went and spoilt everything by winning the whole sheebang so conclusively that the whole thing was put to bed for over two thousand years.

Just before the victory parade the democratic Athenians went and voted to put to death all their ablest generals for a breach of etiquette during the final battle against Sparta. Sparta's weak last gasp (hah, no chance!) therefore worked against all the odds... whoops, the wrong side won.

For donkey's millenia after, the outcome of this war has been used as a case study in the merits/demerits of the more obvious political systems: democracies are freer but fickle, hegemonies (fascist dictatorships) restrict individual freedom but are more focused in times of crisis, and caliphates (God given kingdoms) don't give a tinker's cuss for human freedom or suffering but their success is very tightly coupled to the quality and lifespan of the particular caliph/king/emperor that happens to be in charge at the time.


On all points.

On the back of this: the later Roman Empire actually voted towards hegemony against their own democratic origins because they reasoned that a democratic system is a loser, as it had worked out as being for poor old Athens. As did France just a few years after 1789, Germany in the 1860s, Germany again in the first decade of the 20th century, and (whoops) again in the 1930s. And blow me if all of these more contemporary descents into hegemony didn't purposely adopt the trappings of either Rome or Sparta or a fusion between the two. Sieg Heil, anyone? Hitler Youth modelled on Spartan youth camps? Napoleonic eagles? The empty large offices of the communist bureaucracy?

Thus, after a thousand year hiatus during which crappy little European kingdoms arose following the collapse of Rome, blow me if democracy doesn't rise yet again in Europe? And blow me if Europe doesn't then find itself in yet another three way battle between ideologies.

Well, it seems the millenia old European battle between democracy and hegemony has resolved itself once and for all. There may be further ding-dongs in the future, but one assumes it'll be one democracy against another rather than ideology against ideology. But that's only two parties? Where's the third?

Well, the caliphate system, that's what. The concept of a God given kingdom runs deep in the Middle East, right back to Darius and far far beyond into the hazy time before recorded history. Unlike European culture, there hasn't been any hiatus, no oscillation between kingdom, democracy and hegemony. The caliphate may change, the empires grow and contracts in scale, but the bottom line is that the caliphate system continued unchanged. Until 1918, that is, when the caliphs had the carpet literally whipped from beneath their pampered bums.

The 'recent' tension between East and West is not (in my opinion) a tension between religions, but a backlash at the arbitrary removal of the prevailing caliphate system by western powers immediately following WW1. One supposes that the western powers intended to replace the old Middle East order with a nice tapestry of friendly democratic (trading) nation states, but instead ended up with a rather unfriendly tapestry of poor hegemonies, whose hundreds of millions of poverty stricken 'citizens' struggle to see how the ideology change has improved their lives.

One tends to sympathise with their plight, if not their reaction to it.

So what to do? Give them time to forget the good old days when they were governed by a bunch of caliphs, who while disinterested in the well-being of anyone but themselves, could at least be 'unelected' by the disaffected citizens by a quick dagger in the harem? Or give them time to get used to living under an alien system of hegemony, where a few hundred unelected generals/nobles/billionaires/priests (take your pick, they all conform to the hegemonic system) have total control of their lives, income and well-being, and nothing short of a foreign intervention or a complete collapse into civil war can remove them?

Like Mr Davaar, I believe that the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries weren't discrete wars at all, but the continuation of the same old war between the three ideologies. Unfortunately, that war continues... and will continue until either democracy triumphs or the caliphate returns. Which it won't of course.


6th Feb 2006, 16:24
Or simply continue as it has done, with first one getting the upper hand then the other which it has pretty much since the species first arrived.

Armageddon might just be the showpiece ending. What a thought.