29 January 2010

Haiti: Microcosm of the crisis of development

Pambazuka - Haiti: Microcosm of the crisis of development:
Haiti is a tragedy for us all. It is a tragedy for you and me. It is a tragedy for Africa, for the poor countries of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. An earthquake is a global phenomenon, it can happen anywhere. It can happen in the US, in Europe and in Japan. So why then is it so destructive in its effects in the countries of the South? It is because of the failure of development. Haiti is a microcosm of the disastrous outcome of the failed so-called ‘development’ policies of the last thirty years in the South, and the destructive effects of foreign interventionist policies in the affairs of the poor countries of the South – from Somalia to Bangladesh to Haiti.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, in his passionate book, The Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization gives a graphic account of what happens when local economies and local initiatives of a poor country like Haiti are subordinated to the will of global finance and corporate power masked by the ideologies of ‘free trade’ and ‘development aid’. ‘In a world oriented only toward profit, it may be difficult for us to hear God's voice among the din and the racket of the moneychangers who have filled the world's temples’, he writes.

Organisations trying to bring aid to Haiti after the earthquake two weeks ago have criticised the actions of the US government, saying it looks more like a muilitary occupation than disaster relif, and some have said that priority has been given to bringing in armed sodiers, and humanitarian aid has been delayed.

Haitians Dying By The Thousands As US Escalates Military Intervention:
CNN’s Karl Penhaul reported from Port-au-Prince General Hospital, where US paratroopers have taken up positions. He said that Haitians questioned why so many US troops were pouring into the country. “They say they need more food and water and fewer guys with guns,” he reported.

He also indicated that American doctors at the hospital seemed mystified by the military presence. “They say there has never been a security problem here at the hospital, but there is a problem of getting supplies in.” He added, “They can get nine helicopters of troops in, but some of the doctors here say if they can do that, then why can’t they also bring with them IV fluids and other much needed supplies.”


There was much criticism of former US President George Bush for his tardy response to the devastation caused Hurricane Katrina a few years ago. Perhaps Presdent Barack Obama has learned from this, and was quick with the rhetoric and the photo-ops, but such action as there has been has been criticised as inappropriate.

Haiti: An Unwelcome Katrina Redux:
President Obama's response to the tragedy in Haiti has been robust in military deployment and puny in what the Haitians need most: food; first responders and their specialized equipment; doctors and medical facilities and equipment; and engineers, heavy equipment, and heavy movers. Sadly, President Obama is dispatching Presidents Bush and Clinton, and thousands of Marines and U.S. soldiers. By contrast, Cuba has over 400 doctors on the ground and is sending in more; Cubans, Argentinians, Icelanders, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and many others are already on the ground working--saving lives and treating the injured. Senegal has offered land to Haitians willing to relocate to Africa...

One Katrina survivor noted that the people needed food and shelter and the U.S. government sent men with guns. Much to my disquiet, it seems, here we go again. From the very beginning, U.S. assistance to Haiti has looked to me more like an invasion than a humanitarian relief operation.

26 January 2010

Iraq Inquiry witness lies through his teeth

A top Foreign Office legal advisor, Sir Michael Wood, told the British Iraq inquiry that the invasion of Iraq had no basis in international law, and that he had told government ministers that.

Fair enough, so far, so good.

But then he went on to contrast it with the 1999 Nato attack on Yugoslavia, which he said was justified because of the humanitarian situation, with hundreds of thousands of people being driven from their homes.

That is pure propaganda spin.

Yes, thousands of people were driven from their homes in that conflict, but only after the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia had begun.

That doesn't mean that driving people from their homes was a good thing, but the historical fact is that it was in retaliation for the Nato bombing, it was not the cause of reason for the Nato bombing.

Sir Michael Wood lied through his teeth.

25 January 2010

Brethren, what shall we do?

In looking at other blogs this morning, I came across three in a row that dealt with questions about what Christians can do about injustice and suffereing in the world. Not just talk about it, not just deplore it, not just theologise about it, but DO something about it.

My friend Jim Forest writes in his blog On Pilgrimage: Works of mercy:
For many Protestants, the single criterion for salvation is making a “decision for Christ” -- an intellectual affirmation that Christ is Lord. It has very little to do with how we live and everything to do with how we think. But Jesus, as we meet him in the New Testament, says very little about the criteria for salvation at the Last Judgment. Mainly the Gospel has to do with how we live here and now and how we relate to each other. Jesus sums up the law and the prophets in just a few words: to love God with all one's heart, mind and soul, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. Just one sentence.

and goes on to say

Main point? The works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc.) connect us to the God of Mercy.

There are many works of art that give visual expression to this crucial aspect of the Gospel. Among those I find most impressive is a very local work of art made in 1504 by an artist who is known only as "the Master of Alkmaar." Originally his seven-panel work hung in the Holy Spirit House of Hospitality in Alkmaar. Later it was moved to the town's cathedral. In the last century, it became part of the Rijksmuseum collection in Amsterdam. Currently, while the Rijksmuseum is undergoing reconstruction, it hangs in Rotterdam at the Boijmans Museum, where Nancy and I visited it yesterday.

In five of the seven panels, Christ -- without a halo -- is present but unrecognized. In this first panel, he looks directly toward the viewer. Only in the panel of the burial of the dead, sitting on a rainbow, is Christ revealed as Pantocrator, Lord of the Cosmos.

And then Julie Clawson writes in Walking the Justice Walk: onehandclapping:
in the large sessions I attended at Urbana, I heard a lot about the pain in the world. I saw that there were starving and hurting people. I was also told that I am self-centered for Facebooking and Twittering. I heard the stories of immigrants who have nothing and are desperately trying to survive. I was shown the magnitude of my consumption habits. And Shane Claiborne even told me how evil it is to live in empire that hurts instead of helps the world. I got the message. I felt guilty. I understood that I should care for others. But nowhere did I hear what I should be doing instead. I heard loud and clear what is wrong with the world, but nothing about what I need to do to make it right.

Perhaps one possible answer is to be found at Margaret Pfeil: Tradition is a living thing | Faith & Leadership:
Catholic Worker houses were founded by Day (1897-1980) and seek to foster practice of the church’s traditional corporal works of mercy (to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit and ransom the captives, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead) and spiritual works of mercy (to admonish sinners, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries and pray for the living and the dead). Catholic Worker houses also advocate for social justice in their local communities and beyond. Hat-tip to A Pinch of Salt: Margaret Pfeil on Dorothy Day

And I am reminded of a book I read more than 40 years ago, on the eve of writing a doctrine exam. It was far more interesting than my textbook, which I should have been reading. One way of escaping, as I said, is to theologise about it. We need a new theolo9gy of this or a new theology of that, people say. I know, I've been there, done that, made that excuse myself, and perhaps am guilty of that right now by blogging about it instead of doing something about it. And the book, by Colin Morris, a Methodist missionary in Zambia, put it in a nutshell:

That phrase Revolutionary Christianity is fashionable. But what it describes is more often a way of talking than a way of walking. It is revolution at the level of argument rather than action. We take daring liberties with the Christianity of the Creeds and the traditional ideas about God. We go into the fray armed to rend an Altizer or Woolwich apart of defend them to the death. We sup the heady wine of controversy and nail our colours to the mast -- mixing our metaphors in the excitement! The Church, we cry, is in ferment. She has bestirred herself out of her defensive positions and is on the march! And so she is -- on the march to the nearest bookshop or theological lecture room or avant garde church to expose herself to the latest hail of verbal or paper missiles. This is not revolution. It has more in common with the frenzied scratching of a dog to rid itself of fleas than an epic march on the Bastille or the Winter Palace. Revolutionary Christianity is so uncomplicated in comparison that it is almost embarassing to have to put it into words. It is simply doing costly things for Jesus' sake.

Dorothy Day did that, and so did Methodist Bishop Paul Verryn, but what about the rest of us?

24 January 2010

Methodists: gays out of the closet and refugees under the carpet?

One of the bigger news items last week was the suspension of Methodist bishop Paul Verryn by his ecclesiastical superiors. This came as quite a shock to many of us who know him, and one of the places I naturally looked to for information was some of my Methodist blogging friends. There are quite a few Methodist bloggers in South Africa, so one hoped to learn something from them.

Paul Verryn has been in the news lately for opening the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg to homeless refugees, mostly from Zimbabwe.

Dion Forster wrote about him a few months ago in Dion's random ramblings: Central Methodist Mission, Bishop Paul Verryn and compassion

A couple of years ago Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu remarked that Anglicans seemed to be obsessed with sex, and were discussing sex to the exclusion of more important issues, such as HIV/Aids, Zimbabwe, and the situation in Darfur (see BBC NEWS: Anglicans 'obsessed' by gay issue), and indeed some Anglican blogs, not just in South Africa, but in other parts of the world, seem to focus on little else but sexual morality. I blogged about it at Notes from underground: Anglican introversion, and one Baptist blogger (Matt Stone of Australia) remarked "Consumerism, pluralism, spirituality, collapse of Christian credibility and moral authority in the media and public discourse ... don't these issues deserve some attention? I don't recall Jesus being that sex obsessed" (the link on his blog has changed, and I can no longer find it, but he did say it).

Now it seems to be the turn of Methodists. Several Methodist bloggers have been blogging about homosexuality recently, but I haven't been able to find any who has mentioned the suspension of Paul Verryn. I blogged about it here, and people from other Christian groups in South Africa have Twittered about it, but there seems to be a great silence from South African Methodist bloggers.

Now perhaps I'm sticking my neck out too far here, but it seems to me that Paul Verryn is the Methodist Desmond Tutu, one of those church leaders who make the "don't rock the boat" kind of leaders uncomfortable because they "speak the truth to power". And to me as an outsider the whole thing is beginning to look more and more like a hatchet job. When Jesus was arrested it was a plot hatched by the secular rulers and the religious authorities between them, and a very mixed bunch came to arrest him. And something similar seems to be happening here, with the addition of the media jumping in as well.

In December 2003 an informal group of Johannesburg church leaders of different denominations urged the South African government to be more active in opposing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Paul Verryn was one of the prime movers of this. The group was attacked by other church leaders who were close to the government at the time, notably Frank Chikane and Cedric Mayson, and they likened Paul Verryn and the other Johannesburg leaders to George Bush. The comparison is utterly ridiculous, because at the same time Paul Verryn was investigating possible ways of having George Bush charged with war crimes. In the very same week Desmond Tutu appeared on the front pages of newspapers, attacking the South African government for failing to criticise the Mugabe regime for human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

No one knows how many Zimbabwe refugees there are in South Africa, but very few of them have been granted political asylum, because the South African government does not want to acknowledge the gross human rights abuses that have been taking place in Zimbabwe. One of the South African groups that has been aware of those abuses is Cosatu, the Congress of South African trade unions (the Mugabe regime has been particularly hard on trade unionists), and Cosatu has recently been under sustained attack from the ANC youth league, one of its political alliance partners.

A few months ago government officials and politicans visited the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg where homeless refugees, most of them from Zimbabwe, have been given shelter, and threatened to close the church, and blamed Paul Verryn for the problems there. The real cause of the problem, of course, is the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, from which most of the refugees come, and the secondary cause is the South African government, which fails to acknowledge the problem and make provision for the refugees. People like Paul Verryn try to apply a private enterprise solution, and get attacked for it.

There have been reports of sexual immorality and criminal activity among the refugees staying in the Central Methodist Church. I am not surprised. Just because people are refugees does not mean that they are all necessarily good people.

But the announcement of the suspension of Paul Verryn by the authorities of the Methodist Church made no mention of the disciplinary charges against him, allowing, perhaps deliberately, some very nasty media speculation and innuendoes. On Friday the Johannesburg Star published the most unflattering picture of him they could find, while other press reports practically invited readers to infer that he was a criminal, running a bordello, and deliberately allowing criminals to operate unchecked on the church premises.

So I am really quite anxious to know what Methodist bloggers think of this, rather than abstract questions of sexual morality. The gays may be coming out of the closet, but why are the refugees apparently being swept under the carpet?

22 January 2010

Evangelism, or cultural imperialism

Since the US invasion of Iraq, Western-style Protestant evangelical Christianity has begun to appear in that country. It is not, however, converting Muslims to the Christian faith, but proselytising among other Christians.

Evangelicals Building a Base in Iraq - washingtonpost.com:
The U.S.-led toppling of Saddam Hussein, who limited the establishment of new denominations, has altered the religious landscape of predominantly Muslim Iraq. A newly energized Christian evangelical activism here, supported by Western and other foreign evangelicals, is now challenging the dominance of Iraq's long-established Christian denominations and drawing complaints from Muslim and Christian religious leaders about a threat to the status quo.

The evangelicals' numbers are not large -- perhaps a few thousand -- in the context of Iraq's estimated 800,000 Christians. But they are emerging at a time when the country's traditional churches have lost their privileged Hussein-era status and have experienced massive depletions of their flocks because of decades-long emigration. Now, traditional church leaders see the new evangelical churches filling up, not so much with Muslim converts but with Christians like Tawfik seeking a new kind of worship experience.

There is much talk in Western Christian missiological circles about inculturation and contextualisation, and the need for Christianity, when it enters a society of a different culture, to become part of that culture.

But this seems, on the face of it, to be the opposite: taking already indigenous Christians, and converting them to an exotic culture.

On the other hand, globalisation is such that exotic cultures often seem attracive. Some traditional Christians in countries like Iraq achieve their desire to identify with exotic cultures by emigrating. Others, perhaps those who can't afford to emigrate, do so by joining exotic churches, like Western Baptists, and enjoy the foreign cultural ambiance.

So is it evangelisation, proselytisation, or disinculturation (or could one say "exculturation"? Is that a word?)

20 January 2010

Osama bin Laden and "1984"

Father John McCuen has noticed some interesting parallels between Osama bin Laden and one of the characters in George Orwell's 1984 Observations from an Empty Well: Osama bin Laden and "1984":
What strikes me most about these news reports is not so much the farce of the hunt for bin Laden as how he continues to be brought out from time to time by the media. For some reason, he strikes me as the modern-day equivalent of the character Emmanuel Goldstein, from George Orwell's novel, 1984. Goldstein is the novel's Leon Trotsky to Bib Brother's Josef Stalin: once a member of the highest level within the Party that rules Oceania who broke with Big Brother and formed 'The Brotherhood' for the purpose of bringing down the Party. Consequently, every failure that is acknowledged by the Party is blamed on Goldstein and the Brotherhood; and Goldstein features prominently in an exercise known as the 'Two Minute Hate'; with his image being replaced by that of Big Brother, whose appearance brings calm and peace and joy to the rank and file at the end of the Two Minute Hate.

This is not the "real" Osama bin Laden. It is Osama bin Laden the mythical monster, Osama bin Laden as invented by the regime and the media.

Many years ago, when TV was relatively new in South Africa and we didn't have a TV -- we lived in a village, Melmoth, that was then outside the reception area -- there was a TV series called Rich Man, Poor Man. We never got an opportunity to watch it, but apparently just about everyone in the big cities did, and it dominated the culture of the media. Apparently the villain of the series was called Falconetti, and Falconetti was the guy everyone loved to hate. Any bad guy anywhere was compared to Falconetti. For those of us who had never seen it on TV, however, the cultural reference escaped us. But it was clear that he turned up in every episode of the TV series, plotting new evil, trying to destroy the lives of the heroes.

Eventually I bought the book and read it, in the hope of getting a handle on this cultural phenomenon. It was a great disappointment. Falconetti was a very minor character who appeared on about 5 pages, and wasn't really a villain, certainly not the villain of the story, as he was in the TV series. And its seems that he was not as much a villain of the TV series as he was of the media writing about the TV series. And so it is with Osama bin Laden, and of Slovodan Milosevic before him -- the cardboard cut-out villain trotted out for the obligatory two minutes hate.

18 January 2010

Haiti: earthquakes, democracy and imperialism

The media and the blogosphere have been buzzing with reports of some American politico saying that Haitians deserved to die in an earthquake because there was a rumour that some of their ancestors may possibly have made a pact with the devil. But it seems that the ancestors of the US population are just as open to the accusation.

Morehead's Musings: Interview at Sacred Tribes Journal: Miguel De La Torre on Haiti, It's People and Religion:
We need to be aware that America from very early on never really wanted to see Haiti succeed. When the Haitian slaves overthrew their slave owner masters, this was really the first democracy in the Caribbean that was established. The democracy in the United States was leery of having a Haitian democracy. People like Thomas Jefferson were very concerned that a nation of free black people, run by free black people might be a bad inspiration for his personal black slaves and those in the South. There has always been this desire to make sure the Haitian people did not succeed because if they were to succeed as a country then that would begin to undermine the mythology of white supremacy. This was active in the time of Jefferson, up to the Civil War, and after the Civil War. So there has always been this relationship with Haiti where we did not want to see it be successful.

Interesting stuff there, in John Morehead's blog.

And US and Canadian opposition to Haitian democracy continues into the 21st century. As Fr Michael Graves, an Orthodox missionary in Haiti (since reposed in the Lord), wrote five years ago
Greetings from Haiti, where we experience FIRST-HAND the terrible results of the Feb. 2004 intervention and toppling of the Aristide government. The following is one of the best articles describing our situation. Since the majority of the public media all over this area appears to be controlled by the imperialist powers that be, I am circulating this article which tells the truth about our situation. Please circulate it far-and-wide if you are able.

And please pray for us because we are living under an evil and frightening regime.

God bless,

Father Michael in Haiti

Seven Oaks Magazine August 24, 2004

Blood on the hands: A survey of Canada's role in Haiti



Roger Annis

Five hundred Canadian soldiers are returning from Haiti this month. Together with the armed forces of France and the United States, they took part in the violent overthrow of the elected government of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February/March of this year. Since then, occupying troops have provided backing for rightist gangs who will form the core of the police and government authority the occupying forces are cobbling together to replace the Aristide government.

Troops from the three countries began occupying Haiti on February 29, hours after the United Nations Security Council gave its blessing. Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces later that day and flown out of the country. He now lives in asylum.

The capitalist media in Canada presented the coup as a popular uprising against an unpopular regime. Since then, they have kept a discreet censure about conditions in Haiti under imperialist occupation. New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton spoke not a word about the ongoing tragedy in Haiti during the federal election campaign in May and June. Trade union leaders have also been silent.

The truth urgently needs to be told about Ottawa's crime against the Haitian people.

A disaster for the Haitian people


Constitutional government in Haiti, won through many years of tenacious struggle, has been overthrown. Killings by rightist gangs were widespread leading up to the coup and they have continued during the occupation regime. Several thousand have died. The rightists target supporters of the Aristide government and anyone striving to improve social conditions in the country. Rightists convicted of crimes and human rights violations during previous regimes have been released from prison and are involved in the killings.

U.S. troops have taken part in the attacks on the Haitian people. An Associated Press reporter witnessed U.S. marines joining police in firing on a demonstration of tens of thousands of Haitians on May 18 in Port au Prince. A dozen people were killed and many more injured. Demonstrators were demanding the return of Aristide on the occasion of a holiday marking Haitian independence.

Following the coup, living conditions in Haiti have gone from bad to worse. Prices for basic foodstuffs have risen sharply, the minimum wage has been cut by the new governing authority, and civic services have declined. Flooding this past May on the east- ern part of the island devastated many villages and killed several thousand. In the countryside, drought conditions are devastating the livelihood of farmers and
threatening the vital food harvest. Precious little international aid is being delivered to meet emergency needs.

In a letter to the Toronto Star on July 30, a reader described her dismay with the head of the Canadian military in Haiti when he described the occupation as a "success." The letter recounted a recent telephone conversation with a Canadian aid worker living in Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti. "Things are so much worse than they were last October, prior to the revolt in February," reported the worker.

"Supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide are still being hunted down by those who support a new regime. Food supplies are low, electricity is only on for one to three hours daily, garbage is piled up along the roads, as there has been no collection for many months now, and people everywhere are sick."

Why imperialism opposed Aristide


Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Average annual income is a few hundred dollars. Average life expectancy is 49 years for men and 50 for women. An AIDS epidemic is ravaging the country. Forty-seven percent of the adult population is illiterate and unemployment is 60% to 70%. The country is burdened by a crushing debt to imperialist governments and lending agencies. Gross domestic product in Haiti has declined from US$4 billion in 1999 to $2.9 billion in 2003.

Aristide rose to prominence in the 1980s during the revolutionary movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1990. He was first elected president that year with the overwhelming support of Haiti's working people on a platform of radical social reform. Nine months later he was overthrown by a military coup. He was elected again in May of 2000.

The masses in Haiti had big expectations in the governments headed by Aristide, and despite many disappointments with his performance, they continued to place enormous pressure on his government to stand up to the imperialists and improve their lot. Aristide established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1996, and he welcomed hundreds of Cuban doctors and health workers to provide health care in remote parts of the country.

The post-2000 government built new schools and refused imperialist demands to privatize state-owned services such as electricity, telephones, and ports.

Aristide angered the French government in April 2003 when he demanded that it pay $21 billion in reparations to Haiti. France, the island's former colonial power, had extorted millions of dol- lars in payments from Haitian governments during the 19th and 20th centuries as punishment for the successful anti-slave revolt that led to Haiti's independence from France in 1804.

Aristide's governments brought few improvements in living conditions for the masses. It implemented measures demanded by the imperialists, including lowering of tariffs that protected local food production, emptying of the national treasury in order to pay off international lending institutions, and privatizing some state-owned industries.

Nevertheless, the imperialist powers feared a revival of the mass movement that had toppled the Duvalier dictatorship, and they were not confident that Aristide would keep the island safe for continued exploitation.

Canadian imperialists in Haiti


The imperialist intervention in Haiti was a joint venture with rightist forces that launched an armed rebellion in early February. The rightists were armed and financed by wealthy Haitians and their backers in the U.S., France, Canada, and neighbouring Dominican Republic. They were few in number and weak in the capital city Port au Prince. But pro-government defense forces were poorly organized and armed, and were politically disoriented by the record of the Aristide government in bowing to imperialist dictates.

In January 2003, Canada's foreign affairs department was one of the sponsors of an international conference in Ottawa that discussed and laid plans for the overthrow of Aristide's government. Thirteen months later, according to a report on the French-language television news network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the elite service of the Canadian armed forces was among the imperialist troops that helped capture and secure the airport in Port au Prince in the early hours of February 29.

On July 6, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced that Canada would send 100 RCMP to replace the returning soldiers. Police and soldiers from the U.S., France, Chile, Brazil, and other countries will remain in Haiti, under UN Security Council approval. A press release from the Canadian government described the role of the occupation as being a form of assistance to "the transitional Haitian government in establishing a secure and stable environment, restoring law and order, and reforming the Haitian National Police."

Canada's troops provide security for the post-coup regime, and the killings continue. One of the tasks the occupation forces have set for themselves is to disarm the civilian population.

The Canadian government has convinced many at home and abroad that it is a friend of peace and democracy and that its armed forces abroad are "peacekeepers." This is a lie. Indignation against the crimes of Washington in Iraq and elsewhere will ring hollow if not accompanied by equal indignation at Ottawa's participation in the pillage and oppression of the semi-colonial world.

Those concerned with human rights, poverty and the oppression of the Third World peoples have a responsibility to speak out about the situation in Haiti. We should demand of the Canadian government that it withdraw police and military forces from that country and halt any form of assistance to the post-coup authority. Working-class and progressive organizations in Canada need to support the people of Haiti in opposing the coup-imposed regime and fighting for the return of the democratically elected government.

Roger Annis is an editor of www.SocialistVoice.com , where this article
originally appeared.

I am not sure that Fr Michael would have sympathised with all the "Marxist perspectives" in Socialist Voice. What is clear is that from his perspective, inside Haiti at the time of the 2004 coup, is that that article was telling the truth about what was happening in Haiti.

As the Kingston Trio sang 50 years ago:

They're rioting in Africa
There's strikes in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

For more background information see In Case You Missed It: A Pact With Which Devil?

16 January 2010

Calling Inklings bloggers

I've found quite a number of blogs written by fans of the Inklings, the mid-20th century informal literary group that included C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and several others.

In spite of this, a search of Blogger profiles reveals only 14 who list the Inklings as one of their interests, and most of them don't have blogs, or their blogs are dead. A similar search at BlogCatalog revealed a similar result.

I've started an Inklings group at BlogCatalog, in the hope that it may be possible to bring at least some Inklings bloggers together, and make it easier to find blogs that deal with the Inklings.

As is the way of such things, the first two people who applied to join had no discernible interest in the Inklings -- that seems to be typical of the Internet nowadays, where people you've never heard of announce that they are listing you as their "friend" and thereafter you never hear from them again. All that does is clutter up the net with useless links.

I hope to make this group a little more selective. To join, you don't need to blog about the Inklings in every single post, but a search of your blog should teveal at least some posts about the Inklings.

If you don't have a blog and don't want to have one, there is also an Inklings discussion forum on the net that you can join. There you can also, in the fashion of the Inklings, upload your own writing for others to read and discuss.

Here's a list of the members of the Inklings:

  • Barfield, Owen 1898-1997
  • Bennett, Jack Arthur Walter 1911-1981
  • Coghill, Nevill Henry Kendal Aylmer 1899-1980
  • Dundas-Grant, James Harold 1896-1985
  • Dyson, Henry Victor Dyson 1896-1975
  • Fox, Adam 1883-1977
  • Hardie, Colin Graham 1906-1998
  • Havard, Robert Emlyn 1901-1985
  • Lewis, Clive Staples 1898-1963
  • Lewis, Warren Hamilton 1895-1973
  • Mathew, Anthony 1905-1976
  • McCallum, Ronald Buchanan 1898-1973
  • Stevens, Courtenay Edwards 1905-1976
  • Tolkien, Christopher 1924-
  • Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel 1892-1973
  • Wain, John Barrington 1925-1994
  • Williams, Charles Walter Stansby 1886-1945
  • Wrenn, Charles Lesley 1895-1969
They met in Oxford, usually at C.S. Lewis's rooms at Magdalen College, to read their writings to each other, and in some cases the comments and suggestions made at the meetings influenced the version that was eventually published.

So if you sometimes write blog posts about any of them, or about their writings, please consider joining the Inklings Group.

Here are a few blogs that post stuff about the Inklings, which I hope will join this group:

I'm sure there are more out there, so let's try to link them.

13 January 2010

Invasion of the Baby-Snatchers

St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: UK Border Agency: Invasion of the Baby-Snatchers:
The thundering knock came early in the morning. It was 6.30am. Without waiting for an answer the security chain across the door was smashed from its fittings. Feet thundered up the staircase. The five children, all under the age of 10, were alarmed to be woken from their sleep by the dozen burly strangers who burst into their bedrooms, switched on the lights and shouted at them to get up.

This is not a police state. It is Manchester in supposedly civilised Britain in the 21st century. There is a clue to what this is about in the names of the children: Nardin, who is 10; Karin who is seven; the three-year-old twins Bishoy and Anastasia, and their one-year-old baby sister Angela.

Their parents, Hany and Samah Mansour, are Coptic Christians who fled to the UK after a campaign of persecution by a group of Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt whose friends in the secret police tortured Hany. But even though six Coptic Christians were shot dead by Muslim extremists only last week in a town not far from their home, the British Government has decided that it does not believe them. And so Britain's deportation police have launched another of their terrifying dawn raids on sleeping children.

We have similar problems in South Africa. We have the notorious Lindela Repatriation Camp. We have senior people in government visiting a church that has allowed homeless refugees to sleep inside it instead of outside in the street and threatening to close the church (so much for our much-vaunted constitutional guarantee of religious freedom).

And then there is the fascist (no hyperbole -- there's no better word to describe it) Australian press, which routinely refers to "suspected asylum seekers", as though seeking asylum was a crime. Boat carrying 30 suspected asylum seekers intercepted off Australia's north coast | The Daily Telegraph:
YET another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers has been intercepted off Australia's north coast, making it the 60th arrival this year.

The stationary vessel was spotted sometime before 7.30am today about 140 nautical miles (260 kilometres) north of Gove, in the Northern Territory, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said in a statement this afternoon.

Britain, South Africa and Australia are supposed to be democratic states, and they at least pay lip service to human rights. But this kind of behaviour is as bad as that found in totalitarian dictatorships. As far as I am aware, each of these countries is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, among other things, that Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

So why are the Australian media trying to portray a right as a crime by referring to "suspected" asylum seekers? That is how the Nazi propaganda press dealt with Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and other "Untermenschen". By trying to criminalise the exercise of human rights, the Australian press fully deserves the epithet "fascist".

Christians have just celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and among other things we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ and his family were asylum seekers in Egypt. But many of his followers in Egypt have now become asylum seekers elsewhere. And, as we can see, they receive no better welcome.

11 January 2010

Sky watch

Some bloggers post pictures o Sky watch Friday, showing interesting pictures of the sky. We don't seem to have many, but this morning's sunrise seemed worth recording, even though it's munday.


09 January 2010

Current reading: a tourist's guide to modernity

From Dawn to Decadence From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I haven't finsihed reading this book, and will add to these comments when I do. I recently picked it up again after putting it aside , and then putting other books on top of it, after I'd got about halfway through.

It's a kind of history and tourist's guide to modernity. I was moved to pick it up again after an internet discussion on science, magic and miracles.

View all my reviews >>

I first came across Jacques Barzun when I was working on my masters dissertation and read The modern researcher, which he wrote with Henry Graff, and found it enormously helpful, and have recommended it to postgraduate students ever since. So when I saw this new book of his in a bookshop I had no hesitation in buying it, and i have bot een disappointed.

06 January 2010

Turkey seeks return of Santa Claus' bones

"Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all an opportunity to reflect on what we most deeply and sincerely believe in. I refer, of course, to money."

So said the satirical song-writer Tom Lehrer, as a preface to his Christmas carol on how the feast is commonly celebrated nowadays. But I don't think even Tom Lehrer could have imagined just how far the money-grubbing greed exhibited in the commercialisation of Christmas could go. I think this one takes the cake (hat-tip to Ad Orientem: Turkey hints at calling for repatriation of the relics of St. Nicholas). You can't satirise and take the mickey by exaggeration any more, because no sooner do you do so than someone comes along whose behaviour in real life goes beyond the most exaggerated caricature you can think of.

BBC News - Turkey seeks return of Santa Claus' bones:
A Turkish archaeologist has called on his government to demand that Italy return the bones of St Nicholas to their original resting place.

The 3rd Century saint - on whom Santa Claus was modelled - was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari.

The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint's remains.

While Christmas is by and large not celebrated in Muslim Turkey, the Christmas figure of Santa Claus certainly is, in the Mediterranean town of his birth...

Even without the bones, the town of Demre has not been shy about cashing in on its most famous native son - today visitors to the Byzantine church there are greeted by a large, plastic Santa statue, complete with beard and red snow-suit.

It appears, however, that the church in question is in ruins, and its congregation long dispersed (hat-tip to RORATE CAELI).

France24 - Turkey wants the remains of old St Nick:
'These bones should be exposed here and not in a town of pirates' in Bari, said Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, quoted in the newspaper Milliyet.

'If we build a museum in this town (Demre), naturally the first thing we will ask for are the remains of Father Christmas'.

The minister gave no schedule for the museum construction, which would exhibit relics of ancient civilisations, but said that after a study by experts, Turkey would request that Italy return the remains of Saint Nicholas.

Someone should point out to the Minister that if the bones are returned, they should not be in a museum, but in a church where they can be venerated by the faithful. The Turkish government might not like that, howeever, because it would mean that the church should be rebuilt and a Christian community allowed to live and worship there. The bishop should not return unless his flock is also allowed to return. If it is not, it is cynical money-grubbing at its very worst, and an insult to Christians far worse than any Danish cartoons could have offered to Mohammed (pbuh) or any Swiss ban on the building of minarets.

So if the Turkish Minister of Culture doesn't want to look like a cynical and greedy money-grubber, interested in nothing but tourist Euros, let him forget about his idea of a museum. Let him rather rebuild the church, and allow its congregation to worship there, so that they can welcome their bishop back home.

04 January 2010

The Invisible Hand


One of the most persistent forms of idolatry in our time has been the worship of economic forces. There have been huge debates about the nature of these economic forces. For Marxists the name of the deity is "the dialectical forces of history" while for the Free Marketeers it has been "the free rein of the market mechanism".

But these are simply two denominations of the same religion. Both believe in subjecting man to the power of economics and money.

Hat-tip to A Pinch of Salt: Invisble hands of all kinds, who comments:
What is more rational or realistic - believing in a Father in heaven or an All Encompassing Love, or in this invisible hand? Just this one time let us ask the question.

03 January 2010

Book Review Bloggers at Thomas Nelson

I quite often post reviews or comments on books I have read on this or my other blogs, and so found this quite interesting.

Book Review Bloggers at Thomas Nelson:
Any blogger can receive FREE copies of select Thomas Nelson products. In exchange, you must agree to read the book and post a 200-word review (guidelines) on your blog and on any retail website.

I usually post reviews and comments first on my Good Reads page, which then allows me to copy it to one of my blogs, with all links suitably adjusted.

The Thomas Nelson offer looks useful -- I wonder if other publishers will do something similar.

02 January 2010

1 Month to Meet Some Interesting People: HENRI NOUWEN

I've never read any of the works of Henri Nouwen, though I have seen him and his writings mentioned in other people's blog posts, so I found this review of a biography of him quite interesting and informative. 1 Month to Meet Some Interesting People: HENRI NOUWEN:
Henri Nouwen, with Thomas Merton, were the first 20th century Catholic writers on Christian Spirituality to be widely read among non-Catholics. (And each of them was criticized for 'never having an unpublished thought.' 'Like Merton', says this biographer, [Nouwen] seemed to feel that, unless he was writing things, he wasn't fully experiencing them. There was a gravitation in both men towards writing too much.'). Many evangelicals, after reading some of Nouwen's books, didn't know they were exposing their minds to the spiritual theology of a Roman Catholic! 'It was possible for him to speak in the morning to a group of left-wing Catholic liberation theologians, lead a lunch-time seminar with Nonconformists, and in the afternoon exhort members of the Religious Right'.

I had assumed he was a Dutch Protestant rather than an American Roman Catholic.

01 January 2010

New Years, past and present

Last night I was trying to download a few things to use up the extra bandwidth I had bought, which doesn't carry over to the following month. But as midnight drew near it went slower and slower. Perhaps the net was overloaded with people Twittering new year's greetings, like what happened when Michael Jackson died.

Eventually I gave up and went to bed, and listened to the crackers going off. I was too lazy to put my shoes on and go out and bang on a lamp post with a brick. That's how people used to celebrate New Year in my youth. Well, not where I lived. We lived on a smallholding in Sunningdale, next door to Sandringham in Johannesburg. Sandringham was in the municipal area and had lamp posts, we were outside it, and didn't. We had our own diesel generator for electricity. But we had friends in Benoni, and went to them in alternate years. And they lived right at the edge ofg the municipal area, the last house in Northmead. Beyond lay smallholdings and the airfield where we used to go on Sundays to watch the Tiger Moths and Piper Cubs doing circuits and bumps.

And in Benoni, on the stroke of midnight, all the domestic servants, the cooks and the cleaning maids and the gardeners, took to the lamp posts and banged them with halfbricks. It sounded almost like a chime of bells, and the ringing was punctuated by drunken shouts of "Happeeeeeee". It was far more impressive than fireworks, and didn't frighten the dogs.

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