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New translation, the Magna Carta

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modern architectural art for the wtc

entrant for New World Trade CenterPictures of seven designs by architects from around the world.

 

 

 

the web address for this article is
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Carnage and culture: Landmark battles in the rise of Western power
by V. D. Hanson five GoldenYak (tm) award

It is important to grasp that the settled peoples have dominated history. Carnage and culture attempts to show why. The major reason asserted for this is that settled people have much worth defending.

The generalised argument is that ‘democratic’ peoples produce more formidable fighting/killing methods and machines than do top-down societies, where obedience overrides initiative. Hanson also tries to show a tendancy of settled societies to fight in a co-ordinated manner, rather than as individual warriors.

There has been much agonising in recent decades over conflicts between military secrecy and western investigative journalism. There has also been fuss that those arguing against a particular course of action may, somehow, be playing into the hands of an enemy. Hanson argues, I think convincingly, that this friction is a necessary and productive part of the reason why western forces have been so much more innovative and successful than those of dictatorial states.

This book discusses ‘western’ military structures and behaviour through nine examples

  1. Salamis (Ancient Greeks)
  2. Gaugamela (Macedonians)
  3. Cannae (a Roman reversal)
  4. Tenochtitlan (Spaniards)
  5. Poitiers (reversal of Islam)
  6. Lepanto (Ottoman reversal)
  7. Rorke’s Drift (British)
  8. Midway (Japanese reversal)
  9. Tet (Vietnam)

There is also an Afterword that comments on after September 11, 2001.

In my view, Carnage and culture is an excellent, recent history book. It is the sort of history book that would form a useful basis for school study. There is much reinforcement of themes in the context of the nine real examples that Hanson chooses. This method of example also allows the author to present a wide-ranging and integrated approach to the Western and democratic traditions, instead of the, all too often, isolated and falsely boxed works that concentrate upon, perhaps, one battle or a short period in one nation’s history.

Others have written in terms of the effect of specific innovation, both detached from the background society and with insufficient context concerning the societies with which they were competing.

Hanson does tend to stress the blood an gore at times, and is no friend of political correctness. While these traits can both be seen as merits, this is not a book I would put into the hands of 12 or 13 year-olds, although it is useful background for a teacher of any age-group. The book would be excellent reading for reasonably educated 16 year-olds and above. It is also an first-class background history for the multitudes who have been ill-served by mediocre education.

Hanson also writes regularly in the National Review, and is often worth reading.

With introductory and summary chapters.

Carnage and culture: Landmark battles in the rise of Western power
by Victor Davis Hanson
hardback hardback
$20.97 [amazon.com]/£17.15 [amazon.co.uk]
2001, Doubleday, 0385500521
paperback

paperback
$11.20 [amazon.com] / £9.12 [amazon.co.uk]
2002, Anchor, 0385720386

the web address for this article is

paranoia in society: the dangerous mix of media and 'cults'

an interesting review by the auroran sunset

aum shinrikyou - a book review and comment
Religious violence in contemporary japan: the case of Aum Shinrikyou, by Ian Reader, is a clear and scholarly look at Aum and how it got that way, with emphasis on how its dogmas shaped Aum’s subsequent actions. Reader largely avoids the rampant sensationalism surrounding most coverage of this and similar groups, although he tries very hard to play down the part played by heavy-handed government, media and local interference in the descent of this and other organisations (such as Jim Jones’ and Koresh’s organisations) into militant paranoia. Instead, he seems to be trying to say that such outlooks are somehow entirely internal to the dogmas, an idea that is patently absurd.... But I suppose if he laid the criminal culpabilities for these actions at the doors of organisations like the US/Japanese government/police and the slime producers in the media, he probably wouldn’t keep his job in academia for long.

A little synopsis: Asahara Shoko was unsatisfied with much of mainstream religion and, in particular, what he saw as the “going through the motions” and emphasis on ceremony in mainstream Buddhism. He was unhappy with the lack of concentration on activities such as meditation and ascetic practices. It was after trying one of the newer religions formed along these lines for a number of years [incidentally, members of the religion concerned are trying to claim that he was never a member, let alone a member of over five years and at times a teacher there—damage limitation], that Asahara decided to set up his own meditation group, which gradually grew into a number of communes for the practice and contemplation of his growing body of dogma.

In the late eighties/early nineties, Aum started to get noticed sufficiently that people began to cause them problems. One issue was that of parents trying to see their children under the age of majority, which is 20 in Japan... the ‘children’ [late teens] having made it perfectly clear they wanted nothing to do with said parents.... Another issue was the attitude of various rural areas in which Aum attempted to set up communes, where the Aum members were systematically harassed and made thoroughly unwelcome by the authorities and locals.... Examples include: refusing to allow them to put in water pipes and telephone lines to the communes.... illegally keeping them off the residence register, so that they could not vote [in at least one case this has led to a multi-million pound settlement against a district for Aum, after a civil liberties group took interest following the publicity garnered by the subway attack]; refusing to allow them into local shops; blocking roads to the communes.

Around this period, a number of national newspapers ran various scurrilous and inflammatory articles on the group, whipping up “big scary cult” emotionalism against them.... Also at this time, the government were attempting to block the group’s registration as a religion. Religions have constitutional protection under Japanese law, a reaction to Japanese problems in the 1930s/40s. The government was eventually forced to back down, although now in the post-subway era this is seen as a failing, After all, a “real” religion couldn't possibly do these things!

During this time, Asahara’s doctrines started to change from a tone of “we’re going to save everyone’s souls etc.” to “the rest of the world is too far gone, only those in Aum can be saved”. There was already a large degree of “humans are inherently ‘bad’, and must be transformed to avoid eternal shittiness” in the doctrine, as is common to varying degrees in most religion. These factors brought together, moved the group slowly but surely towards an attitude of the ‘outside’ world is evil, and this evil must be vanquished. At this period, one of the students was accidentally killed during ascetic practice... This death was covered up, and a student who threatened to leave and tell was then murdered. From this point, the doctrine began to adapt to include the idea that killing someone you know is going to do ‘evil’ is a good thing.... Extending this to the evil outside world was not a big step....

The odd thing is that all of this could almost be seen as largely reasonable, except that Aum were themselves hardly less barmy than the ‘outside’ world and their idea of ‘evil’ was not remotely sane.... Yet in this book, and elsewhere, the very suggestion that the ‘outside’ world is the problem, and that a suitable solution is setting up your own society largely independent of the society (the basic idea of a commune), is seen as proof that you are mad and a dangerous ‘cult’.... This then brings the wrath and continual interference of this ‘outside’ world, which unsurprisingly enough makes the group members think people are out to get them, and so they either fight back, commit suicide, or give up. [In America, a reformed heroin addict set up a commune called Synanon to help other drug addicts in an early, somewhat successful, scheme.... His organisation was deliberately harried out of existence by the authorities.]

From here the core of the group, which incidentally was almost entirely made up of young, intelligent and successful individuals seeking something less pointless than their ‘materialistic’ prior existence, became more and more loopy.... From releasing botulism around Tokyo (utter failure.... Like almost all of their attempts at mass killing, their delivery systems tech being far behind that of their weapons), to producing sarin, kidnapping, murder in and out of the organisation, incarceration and torture of ‘spies’, and finally the subway attack (which was another of their huge ‘failures’, only killing a handful when they were expecting thousands).

Since then, Aum continues to exist as a small group still concentrating on their “development”, and oblivious to the “far less important” world ‘out there’... The Japanese government have committed a number of ritual state murders on members of the core, and others have been jailed... Asahara is still on trial for his life, a trial that is expected to last at least ten years, and end with his ritual murder by the state.... Asahara is quite obviously insane, and in a more ‘civilised’ country would be in a nuthouse by now. However, the Japanese, fearing public outcry, have not even performed a psychological examination on him, despite his more and more insane antics in court (including asking one of the Aum core, who testified against him, to show the court that he could fly!).

In the meanwhile, the Japanese media, much like the rest of the world, goes on writing sanctimonious slime about this ‘evil’ man and of their ‘courageous’ fight against ‘cults’.... The media tries to suggest that its behaviour is a righteous battle against such dangerous groups—actions of the kind Aum has taken being the media’s proof that ‘cults’ are dangerous. The complicity inherent in the disgusting behaviour of the media and of governments is studiously avoided as a contributory cause. They are honest. No one should ever think otherwise.

Reproduced by permission of the auroran sunset

Religious violence in contemporary japan: the case of
Aum Shinrikyou
by Ian Reader
hardback hardback
$48.00 (amazon.com)/£30.54 (amazon.co.uk)
2000, University of Hawaii Press, 0824823397
paperback

paperback
$23.95 (amazon.com)
2000 University of Hawaii Press,0824823400
£18.99 [special order] (amazon.co.uk)
1999, RoutledgeCurzon, 0700711090

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#review101202-2

DED

Now gone from this world, two defining eccentric and humanitarian voices of the 20th century: Both were part of the modern cultural revolution still in the process of unfolding.

Arno Peters, aged 83, developed of the ‘Peters’ Projection, used in the Peters World Map, adopted by champions of the fight against social inequality everywhere.

Ivan Illich, aged 76, the former Catholic priest who railed against institutionalisation and lack of thought in many aspects of society.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#review101202

   A green history of the world by C. Ponting

This review has been moved and is now included in the briefing document,
ecologically collapsing and retrenching civilisations
written sources

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#review081202

exhibition of satellite pictures of earth

West FjordsLibrary of Congress, James Madison Building, Washington,
until July 23, 2003.

This is a seriously pretty range of images from around the world. The link is to the lead-in page for the 40 enlargeable thumbnails of images in the exhibition.

Larger printed images (approx. 26" x 27") can be ordered at $30.00 plus a $5.00 handling charge for each order. Orders shipped outside of the US will incur a $20 International Shipping fee. The average delivery time is approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

The web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#review071202

zen garden...
[Nature, 16.09.02]

Taking place in London, at the Tate Modern until 5 January 2003, is an exhibition on Barnett Newman (1905-1970), a great colourfield artist.
If you’ve not seen this sort of art before, treat it as you would a Zen garden.

Do not ask what it ‘is’ or what it is for,
sit in front of it and absorb it and let it absorb you

High-grade modern art, of whom Barnett Newman is one of the great exponents, must be listened to and absorbed like music. Analysis is subsidiary, or the study of the practising artist. You do not need to be an accomplished pianist or composer in order to profit from listening to Beethoven.

The last substantial exhibition of Newman’s work was in the early 1970s. It is possible that this great artist’s work will not be available in a show like this for another thirty years. It is only in major exhibitions like this that you can have a full appreciation of the life-work of such a master.

These works are large and textured. They vary in colour as the light moves and as you move. They cannot be adequately grokked from small printed reproductions. The real thing is alive.

You may see a poor reproduction of Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue II, one of his most famous works, at the Tate link provided above. You can see two other small reproductions at avantart.com, together with some background. Some expensive posters are available at Postershop.com. Here are some illustrations of Newman’s Stations of the Cross series, which is also on show in the Tate exhibition.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#review260902

The Viceroy’s daughters, A. de Courcy,
pbk: Phoenix, Aug. 2002, 1842126199, £7.19
hbk: William Morrow, 2002, 0066210615 $19.57 / Nicholson, 2000, 0297819771, £17

Recommended for any wishing to get a feel for the thirties in the UK.

The old ruling classes are going to hell in a bucket. Among the other appeasers, Mosley cuts a figure between comic and dangerous, while dreaming of becoming the British Mussolini or Hitler.

They’re all screwing around in a grand game of musical beds, while taking themselves and their trivial pursuits very seriously—spoilt rich kids inheriting great fortunes, meanwhile losing touch with the modern world.

The author is an ideal person to write up their trivial life style, as she is a tabloid journalist who does not analyse, but just reports their interminably self-indulgent, self-involved, ever-narrowing world, as the country spirals mindlessly unprepared towards war

I have read rather a lot on this period and the work is usually constantly irritating, as friends, relations or politically committed journalists attempt to justify or to vilify. Here you just get it straight from the diaries they kept, flat and without intrusive ‘analysis’. This makes the book far less of a nuisance to read. Unlike most books about these times, it is also well-organised and fluently written. It covers the trivial caperings of the Cliveden set, two of Mosley’s married mistresses—Diana Mitford and Baba Curzon—and the outrageously self-centred ‘Prince’ of Wales.

Most books I have read tend to either concentrate on, or mention, one or other of these grown-up children in passing, but don’t weave them together in their full emptiness. The fact that the whole bunch are seen here cavorting in their interlocked incestuous vacuity is very useful.

This is the heart of the generation damaged by the first World War, poorly educated and irresponsible, that had a great part in the decline of Britain. It is useful to reflect how very much worse things would be were it not for Churchill and the Thatcher governments. Britain is still struggling to escape from the inheritance this lost generation bequeathed. The story is not over yet, the echoes linger still....

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review1.php#bkrev060602


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