Bulletin N° 616
Subject: ON BURNING KARMA.
19 June 2014
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Life at times seems “too unjust”.
Take the fact, for instance, that the American automobile industrialist and Nazi collaborator, Henry Ford, lived to the ripe old age of 83, and that the cruel Caudillo of Spanish fame, Francisco Franco, lived to be over 82. Or that the murderous American 'statesman' Henry Kissinger has out lived one of his most ardent critics, the American historian Gabliel Kolko. The perversities in life are abundant and since the beginning of man they have produced metaphysical speculations.
George Orwell (who died at the age of 47) dealt with this subject in his first book, Burmese Days (1934). One of the characters in this story was U Po Kyin, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of a district, who by all accounts was a venal, domineering, destructive official. His opportunistic behavior alternated between aggressive attacks on subordinates when it served his purpose, and abject servility towards people whom he thought could serve to promote his career. He advanced ruthlessly, using henchmen employed within in the system, to secure his way while his equally ruthless spouse smiled approvingly, but deep down worried about the condition of his soul and the prospects of his future incarnation. Kyin amassed great wealth and political power over large numbers of subordinates, but he had a plan: when he retired he would occupy himself with his salvation. Finally, he retired a supremely egotistical old man, unable to communicate outside the rigid institutional strictures which he had learned so well to manipulate.
“U Po Kyin had done all that mortal men could do.” wrote Orwell. “It was time now to be making ready for the next world –in short, to begin building pagodas.” Unfortunately, at this point things went wrong; he was stricken with apoplexy and died before building a single pagoda. His wife suffered greatly thinking where he must be now –perhaps in some subterranean hell of fire, darkness, and serpents; or, even worse, had he returned to earth in the shape of a rat, and at this very moment perhaps a snake was devouring him?
The medieval scholar and statesman Ibn Kaldhûn (1332-1406), wrote in his classic book, The Muqaddinah (published in 1377) about the innate quality of the human mind, which is absent in other species.
On the ability to think, Kaldhûn wrote:
The ability to think has several degrees. The first degree is man’s intellectual understanding of the things that exist in the outside world in a natural or arbitrary order, so that he may try to arrange them with the help of his own power. This kind of thinking mostly consists of perceptions. It is the discerning intellect, with the help of which man obtains the things that are useful for him and his livelihood, and repels the things that are harmful to him.
The second degree is the ability to think which provides man with the ideas and behavior needed in dealing with his fellow men and in leading them. . . . This is called the experimental intellect.
The third degree is the ability to think which provides the knowledge, or hypothetical knowledge, of an object beyond sense perception without any particular activity (going with it). This is the speculative intellect. . . . (pp.333-334)
Concerning “the world of things that come into being as the result of [human] action,” which materializes through thinking, he observed that,
[H]uman action in the outside world materializes only through thinking about the order of things, since things are based upon each other. . . .
[Man’s] thinking starts with the thing that comes last in the causal chain and is done last. His action starts with the first thing in the causal chain, which thinking reaches last. Once this order is taken into consideration, human actions proceed in a well-arranged manner.
On the other hand, the actions of living beings other than man are not well arranged. They lack the thinking that acquaints the agent with the order of things governing his action. Animals perceive only with the senses. Their perceptions are disconnected and lack a connecting link, since only thinking can constitute such (a link). . . .
The ability to think is the quality of man by which human beings are distinguished from other living beings. The degree to which a human being is able to establish an orderly causal chain determines his degree of humanity. Some people are able to establish a causal nexus of two or three levels. Some are not able to go beyond that. Others may reach five or six. Their humanity, consequently, is higher. For instance, some chess players are able to perceive (in advance) three or five moves, the order of which is arbitrary. Others are unable to do that, because their mind is not good enough for it. This example is not quite to the point, because (the knowledge of) chess is a habit, whereas the knowledge of causal chains is something natural. However, it is an example the student may use to gain an intellectual understanding of the basic facts mentioned here. . . . (pp.334-336)
And on the subject of how humans acquire knowledge, he concluded that,
We observe in ourselves through sound intuition the existence of three worlds.
The first of them is the world of sensual perception. We become aware of it by means of the perception of the senses, which the animals share with us.
Then, we become aware of the ability to think which is a special quality of human beings. We learn from it that the human soul exists. This knowledge is necessitated by the fact that we have in us scientific perceptions which are above the perceptions of the senses. They must thus be considered as another world, above the world of the senses.
Then, we deduce (the existence of) a third world, above us, from the influences that we find it leaves in our hearts, such as volition and an inclination toward active motions. Thus, we know that there exists an agent there who directs us toward those things from a world above our world. . . . It contains essences that can be perceived because of the existence of influences that exercise upon us, despite the gap between us and them.
Often, we may deduce (the existence of) that high spiritual world and the essences it contains, from visions and things we had not been aware of while awake but which we find in our sleep and which are brought to our attention in it and which, if they are true dreams, conform with actuality. We thus know that they are true and come from the world of truth. ‘Confused dreams’, on the other hand, are pictures of the imagination that are stored inside by perceptions and to which the ability to think is applied, after man has retired from sense perception.(pp.336-338)
The 9 items below offer CEIMSA readers the opportunity to practice these three levels of thinking which distinguish our species and which the medieval scholar described as the sources of all human knowledge: our discerning intellect, which gives us the ability to arrange our actions in an orderly manner; our experimental intellect, which allows us to acquire from our fellow humans a knowledge of the ideas and things that are useful or detrimental to us; and our speculative intellect, which helps us to obtain a perception of existent things as they are, whether they are absent or present. In this way, we can acknowledge our ‘animality’: whatever we attain is the result of sensual perception, plus the ability to think.
[M]an is simply matter, inasmuch as he is devoid of all knowledge. Man’s nature and essence reveal to us the essential ignorance and acquired (character of the) knowledge that [he] possesses . . . . (p.340)
Item A., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Robert Fisk on the new Middle East.
Item B., from The Guardian, is an article by Paul Lewis on recent military escalation in Eastern Ukraine and the victims of this encroaching war.
Item C., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Robert Fisk on the role of Saudi Arabia in contemporary world history.
Item D., from Truth Out, is an article by Peter McLarne and Mike Cole, on the politics of international capitalist austerity and the example of Venezuelan socialism.
Clearing House, is an article by Uri Avnery on the political power of the Israeli
Item F., from Knowledge Ecology International, is a July 2013 letter from L. Dan Mullaney, Assistant United States Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East advocating top secrecy in negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (the TTIP).
Item G., from c.sham, is an article (in French) on why French railway workers have gone out on an extended nation-wide strike.
Item H., from Jim O’Brien of Historians Against War, is a series of recommended recent articles.
Item I., from The Real New Network, is a three-part interview with Noam Chomsky by Chris Hedges, two public intellectuals who are discussing important problematics taken from US labor history.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to take a look at the exceptionally informative 8-part series of interviews on the Confessions of A Predatory Banker, with Rob Johnson and Paul Jay, on The Real News Network:
Growing Up in the Cauldron of 1960's Detroit - Robert Johnson on Reality Asserts Itself (1/8)
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 15 June 2014
Subject : Iraq and the New Regional Power Play.
The new Middle Eastern map substantially increases Saudi power over the region’s oil, lowering Iraq’s exports, raising the cost of oil (including, of course, Saudi oil) and at the expense of a frightened and still sanctioned Iran.
The Old Partition of the Middle East is Dead.
I Dread to Think What Will Follow
By Robert Fisk
From The Guardian :
Dates: 14 June 2014
Subject : Military escalation in Eastern Ukraine.
On Friday, 13 June, a military transport jet was brought down by heavy machine gun fire as it approached Luhansk airport with soldiers and military supplies from Kiev.
by Paul Lewis
(Video coverage by RT)
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 13 June 2014
Subject : Saudi Arabia in World History.
The jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles.
Has Been Bankrolled By Saudi Arabia
by Robert Fisk
From Truth Out :
Dates: 11 June 2014
Subject : What can we learn from Venezuelan socialism.
Austerity/Immiseration Capitalism: What Can We Learn From Venezuelan Socialism?
by Peter McLarne and Mide Cole
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 13 June 2014
Subject : Saudi Arabia in World History.
IN ISRAEL, a military coup is unthinkable.
Here is the place to repeat the old Israeli joke: the Chief of Staff assembles his senior commanders and addresses them: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 0600 hours we take over the government.”
For a moment there is silence. Then the entire audience dissolves into hysterical laughter.
A CYNIC might interrupt here: “Why should the army bother with a coup? It governs Israel anyhow!”
In civics classes, we learn that Israel is a democracy. Officially: “a Jewish and democratic state”. The government decides, the army follows orders.
But, as the man said: “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Israel is not a state that has an army, but an army that has a state.
A Coup? Nonsense!
by Uri Avnery
From Knowledge Ecology International :
Dates: 12 June 2014
Subject : On Conspiracies Imagined and Real.
KEI has obtained the terms of reference (TOR) for the confidentiality of the negotiating texts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement. The TOR are laid out in a two-page letter from US Chief Negotiator Dan Mullaney to EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero which is available here. The letter was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by KEI with the United States Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East on May 19, 2014.
by Claire Cassedy
From c.sham :
Dates: 17 June 2014
Subject : Pourquoi les cheminots sont en grève.
Face à l'intox des médias sur la grève à la
SNCF, le point de vue d'un cheminot :
From Historians Against the War :
Dates: 18 June 2014
Subject : HAW Notes 6/18/14: Links to some articles related to the Iraq crisis.
This "recent articles" list aims to shed light on the current crisis in Iraq and US policy. It was compiled by Steve Gosch and Jim O'Brien and benefited from suggestions by Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, James Swarts, and Jesse Lemisch. (Suggestions for these occasional lists can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Links to Some Articles Related to the Iraq Crisis
By Vijay Prashad, CounterPunch, posted June 17
The author teaches history at Trinity College.
"The Responsibility of Intellectuals Redux: Humanitarian Intervention and the Liberal Embrace of War in the Age of Clinton, Bush, and Obama"
By Jeremy Kuzmarov, Asia-Pacific Journal, posted June 16
The author teaches history at the University of Tulsa.
"No End of a Lesson -- Unlearned"
By William R. Polk, History News Network, posted June 15
The author is a former member of the US Policy Planning Council and former professor of history at the University of Chicago.
"'Iraq' Is Still Arabic for Vietnam"
By Ira Chernus, History News Network, posted June 15
The author teaches at the University of Colorado and writes regularly for the History News Network.
"Can Obama Pull a Nixon with the Iraq Crisis?"
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Los Angeles Times, posted June 15
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University.
"The Second Iran-Iraq War and the American Switch"
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted June 13
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan.
"Iraq Is Vietnam 2.0 And U.S. Drones Won't Solve the Problem"
By Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast, posted June 12
The author is a former New York Times writer and Vietnam-era Defense Department official who directed the study that produced the Pentagon Papers.
From The Real News Network :
Dates: 17 June 2014
Subject : Public Intellectuals formulate important problematics from US Labor History.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges speaks with Professor Noam Chomsky about working-class resistance during the Industrial Revolution, propaganda, and the historical role played by intellectuals in times of war.
Chris Hedges Interviews Noam Chomsky (1/3)