Bulletin N° 617
Subject: ON THE MEDIEVAL JUDEO-CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM TRADITION, THE VORTEXES OF FANATICISM & THE SUBTERRANIAN NOTION OF ‘DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM’.
24 June 2014
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
As we continue to excavate the culture of the late Middle Ages, to uncover the origins of some of our problems today, in the post-liberal world of crisis capitalism and the permanent warfare economy, we discovered the works of the famous English historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, who wrote at a time when the complexity of social context was still taken seriously.
In this era, the Elizabethan English were in love with life, not some theoretic shadow of life, wrote Trevelyan in his influential book, English Social History (1942). Urban culture, like rural culture, in the time of Shakespeare was characterized by dancing, singing, poetry and music. Everyone was expected to participate. Such festive atmospheres were revived as the revolutionary hallmark of the 1960s: “Revolution for the fun of it!” Such was the liberal expectation in a society, it was thought, that had abolished scarcity.
This cosmopolitan atmosphere was found in every major western city, including Paris in the 1970s: “the Golden Age,” when the comrades from every corner of the earth suddenly dropped their ‘veil’, opened their eyes and found themselves perceiving the sentient reality around them with an awakened interest.
Servile fascist thugs are hired today by slightly more refined administrators to manage failing institutions by intimidating and twisting the arms of employees until they cry ‘uncle’, or in some other way convince their ‘superiors’ that they will submit to the rules and meaningless objectives which the institution has espoused and which demands the allegiance of everyone, at any price. But these agents of violence from above are unable to change the past by coercion; though they can, and do, mess with our collective memories. The social responsibility of historians --as opposed to professional lackeys-- is to remain honest and to speak frankly about what is important to the community, instead of running scared in a mindless state of panic. (The banal opportunists, in pursuit of their careers, must now perform in the open where they will no doubt reap the recognition that they deserve.)
To better understand, today, the compromised condition of our lives, we turn once again to the medieval insights of the Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldhûn:
If dumb animals were asked and could speak, we would find that they would ignore the whole of intelligibilia. It would simply not exist for them. (p.350)
…as to the relationship of humanity to animality, it is clear that the former is included under the latter and comes into being when it comes into being. … the relationship [is] that of genus to species in every existing thing. … or … that of the universal to the particular, according to the theory of ideas. (p.364)
[The] oneness is actually similar to what philosophers say about colors, namely, that their existence is predicated upon light. When there is no light, no colors whatever exist. Thus … all existing sensibilia are predicated upon the existence of some (faculty of) sensual perception and, in fact, that all existing intelligibilia and objects of imagination are predicated upon intellectual perception. Thus, every particular in existence is predicated upon the human (faculty) that perceived it. If we assumed that no human being with perception exists, there would be no particularization in existence. Existence would be simple and one. (p.364)
Khaldûn speaks of the social need for tolerance and respect for the experience of others, whose encounters may be different from our own, but whose perceptions are no less valid.
Thus , heat and cold, solidarity and softness, and, indeed, earth, water, fire, heaven, and the stars, exist only because the senses perceiving them exist, because particularization that does not exist in existence is made possible for the person who perceives. It exists only in perception. If there were no perceptions to create distinctions, there would be no particularization, but just one single perception, namely, the ‘I’ and nothing else. They consider this comparable to the condition of a sleeper. When he sleeps and has no external sense perception, he loses in that condition all (perception of) sensibilia, with the exception of the things that the imagination particularizes for him. They continued by saying that a person who is awake likewise experiences particularized perceptions only through the type of human perception (that exists) in him. If he had not that something in him that perceived, there would be no particularization. (pp. 364-365)
No man would deny to himself the existence of certain knowledge. In addition, competent recent Sufis say that during the removal of the veil, the Sufi novice often has a feeling of the oneness of existence. Sufis call that the station of ‘combination’. But then, he progresses to distinguishing between existent things. That is considered by the Sufis the station of ‘differentiation’. That is the station of the competent Gnostic. The Sufis believe that the novice cannot avoid the ravine of ‘combination’, and this ravine causes difficulties for him because there is danger that he might be arrested at it and his enterprise thus come to naught.(p.365)
No language can express the things that Sufis want to say in this connection, because languages have been invented only for the expression of commonly accepted concepts, most of which apply to the sensibilia.(p.366)
They also thought that human perception could not comprise all the existentia . . . . Therefore, they did not speak about any of their supernatural perceptions. In fact, they forbade the discussion of those things and prevented their companions, for whom the veil (of sense perception) was removed, from discussion the matter or from giving it the slightest consideration. They continued following their models and leading exemplary lives as they had done in the world of sensual perception before the removal of the veil, and they commanded their companions to do the same.(p.367)
In his study of English social history, G. M. Trevelyan describes the society in Tudor England (1485 – 1603), following the reign of “Bloody Mary” (1553-58), as a nation exhibiting a totally different mentality than what existed before or after. The emphasis after the mid-sixteenth century was on proactive freedoms and there was little opportunity for reactive Ressentiment.(*)
The study of history and literature of Elizabethan England gives an impression of a greater harmony and a freer intercourse of classes than in earlier or in later times. It is not a period of peasants’ revolts, of leveling doctrines, of anti-Jacobin fears, or of exclusiveness and snobbery in the upper classes such as Jane Austen depicts in a later age. Class divisions in Shakespeare’s day were taken as a matter of course, without jealousy in those below, or itching anxiety on the part of the ‘upper and middling classes’ to teach ‘the grand law of subordination’ to the ‘inferior orders,’ which is so painfully evident in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries . . . .
Class divisions, recognized without fuss on either side, were not rigid and were not even strictly hereditary. Individuals and families moved out of one class into another by acquisition or loss of property, or by simple change of occupation. There is no such impassable barrier as used to divide the lord of the manor from his peasantry in mediaeval England, or such as continued till 1789 to mark off the French noblesse as an hereditary cast separate from everyone else. In Tudor England such rigid lines were rendered impossible by the number and variety of men in intermediate classes and occupations, who were closely connected, in the business and amusement of daily life, with those above and those below them in social status. English society was based not on equality but on freedom –freedom of opportunity and freedom of personal intercourse. Such was the England known and approved by Shakespeare: men and women of every class and occupation were equally interesting to him, but he defended ‘degree’ as the necessary basis of human welfare.(pp.163-164)
It was a period of great optimism, wrote Trevelyan, and consequently a period of religious and political tolerance.
There were among Shakespeare’s contemporaries many violent Puritans and Romanists and many narrow Anglicans, but there was also something more characteristically Elizabethan, an attitude to religion that is not primarily Catholic or Protestant, Puritan or Anglican, but evades dogma and lives broadly in the spirit. It is common to Shakespeare and to the Queen herself. (p.174)
Two generations later the mentality in England had changed dramatically; Trevelyan points out that following the triumph of the Parliamentary armies, came the Puritan Revolution and the ‘rule of the saints’,
with their canting piety used as a shibboleth to obtain the favour of the dominant party; their interference with the lives of ordinary people; their closing of the theatres and suppressing of customary sports. . . .
The Cromwellian revolution was not social and economic in its causes and motives; it was the result of political and religious thought and aspir4ation among men who had no desire to recast society or redistribute wealth. No doubt the choice of sides that men made in politics and religion was to some extent and in some cases determined by predispositions due to social and economic circumstance; but of this men were only half conscious. There were more lords and gentlemen on the side of the King, more yeomen and townsfolk on the side of Parliament. Above all, London was on the side of Parliament. Yet every class in town and country was itself divided. . . .
The stage of economic and social development which had been reached in the England if 1640 was not the cause, but it was a necessary condition, of the political and religious movements that burst forth into sudden blaze. . . .
Indeed, the Puritan Revolution was itself, in its basic impulse, a ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’ ‘I dreamed [wrote Bunyan,] and behold I saw a Man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book and read therein; and as he read, he wept, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he broke out with a lamentable cry, saying: ‘What shall I do?’
That man, multiplied, congregated, regimented, was a force of tremendous potency, to make and to destroy. It was the force by which Oliver Croimwell and George Fox and John Wesley wrought their wonders, being men of a like experience themselves.
But it would be a mistake to suppose that this earnestness of personal and family religion was confined to the Puritans and the Roundheads. The Memoirs of the Verney family and many other records of the time show us Cavalier households as religious as the Puritan, though not so wearisomely obtrusive with scripture phrases for every common act of life. . . .
But there are other things in Pilgrim’s Progress besides the most perfect representation of evangelical religion. The way of the Pilgrims, and of the reader withal, is cheered by the songs, the rural scenery, the tender and humorous human dialogues. . . . It is still in great measure the England of Shakespeare, though it is the scene of a soul’s conflict that afflicted the contemporaries of Shakespeare less often than those of Bunyan. But the human background had little changed. . . .
In those days men were much left alone with nature, with themselves, with God. As Blake has said,
Great things are done when men and mountains meet.
These are not done by jostling in the street. (pp.234-237)
Nevertheless, all was not Sturm und Drang. Even in these days of fanaticism, popular traditions were kept by ordinary people.
The Civil Wars of Charles and Cromwell were not, like the Wars of the Roses, a struggle for power between two groups of aristocratic families, watched with disgusted indifference by the majority of the population, particularly by the townsfolk. In 1642 town and country alike rushed to arms. Yet it was not a war of town against country, though to some extent it became a struggle for London and its appendages against the rural North and West. Least of all was it a war between rich and poor. It was a war of ideas in Church and State.
Men chose their sides largely from disinterested motives and under no compulsion. They made their choice on account of their own religious and political opinions, and most of them were in such an economic and social position as to be able to exercise that choice with freedom. . . . But in 1642 many yeomen drew sword against the neighboring squires.(pp.241-242)
[But . . .] fortunately most of the common people who kept the sheep in Shakespeare’s countryside, or wandered by Izaak Walton’s streams, fishing-rod in hand, were untroubled by Bunyan’s and Cromwell’s visions of heaven and hell; but, saint and sinner, happy fisherman and self-torturing fanatic, all were subject to the wholesome influences of that time and landscape. As to the songs of common people, they are well described in a dialogue by Izaak Walton.
[When the milk maiden finished singing the duet requested by the merchant traveler, she said:] ‘Trust me, master, it is a choice song, sweetly sung by honest Maudlin. I now see it was not without cause that our good Queen Elizabeth did so often wish herself a milkmaid all the month of May.’
Such were the simple country-folk under the Puritan Commonwealth, most of them little disturbed by its interfering rigours and stern aspirations. (pp.238-239)
(*)For more on ‘slave morality’, see Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals (1887) [Translated, also, in 2006 by Cambridge University Press, at http://www.inp.uw.edu.pl/mdsie/Political_Thought/GeneologyofMorals.pdf.]
The 8 items below offer CEIMSA readers the opportunity to reassess the intellectual traditions which we have more or less inherited: the knowledge, the concepts, the ideas, categories and notions; and, above all, the perceptions to which we are exposed and which in turn color our souls and determine our behavior, from day to day (including our capacity for ordinary conversation, without the practice of mental jujitsu against some arbitrary adversary) . . . .
Item A., from Nordic News Network, is an article by Al Burke on the second anniversary of Julian Assange’s captivity in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Item B., from History Today, is an essay on the meaning of “social history”.
Item C., from National Security Archives, is are report on the Obama Administration release of declassified documents on Diplomacy between the US and Brazil, relating to Brazil's military dictatorship, which held power from 1964 - 1985.
Item D., from Financial Times of London, is a video presentation of the contemporary art market, featuring Folk Art over Fine Art, the values and intelligibility of which have become increasingly inaccessible to the general public.
Item E., from Consortium News, is an article by Ray McGovern on the abstract game of murder in the name of military science.
Item F., from Truth Dig, is an article by Chris Hedges on our victims in Iraq who have come back to haunt us.
from Information Clearing House, is an interview with the
Commander of ISIS: “Where Will ISIS Go Next?”
Item H., from Historians Against War, is a report by Carolyn Eisenberg on the US Congress’ passing of the Large Pentagon Budget, “Under Iraq Shadow”.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to take a look at the decidedly ahistorical 1999 science fiction Blockbuster film, for a look one scenario of the future of modern alienation :
[The French Marxist sociologist, Henri Lefebvre, author of Everyday Life in the Modern World (1984)described the role of Sci Fi writers in the modern world as essentially the same as the traditional role performed by Prophets (and false prophets) in ancient societies.]
Synopsis of “The Matrix”:
During the year 1999, a man named Thomas Anderson (also known as Neo), lives an ordinary life.
A software techie by day and a computer hacker by night, he sits alone at home by his monitor,
waiting for a sign, a signal - from what or whom he doesn’t know - until one night,
a mysterious woman named Trinity seeks him out and introduces him to that faceless character he has been waiting for: Morpheus. A messiah of sorts, Morpheus presents Neo with the truth about his world by shedding light on the dark secrets that have troubled him for so long.
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 Nordic News Network :
Dates: 19 June 2014
Subject : Assange Still Under Siege in London.
Today marks the second anniversary of Julian Assange’s forced confinement in the London embassy of Ecuador, which has granted him asylum for an indefinite period. Under heavy pressure from the United States, but claiming to be motivated by its legal obligations to Sweden, the U.K. government has refused to grant safe passage of Assange from the embassy to the country of Ecuador.
Assange: Still Under Siege in London
There is strong reason to believe that Sweden has also been acting on behalf of the United States in this matter, and would subsequently extradite Assange to the United States where he is threatened with severe punishment for committing acts of journalism. That belief appears to have been confirmed by the behaviour of Swedish officials during the past year.…
Article in PDF format (ca. 450 KB):
Note: It is anticipated that the 7th installment of "Miscellaneous Information" on the Assange case will be available on the website no later than 21 June 2014.
Tel. +46/(0)8 - 731 9200
WARNING! E-mail to and from Sweden, or via servers in Sweden, is monitored and stored by the National Defence Radio Establishment.
Varning! E-post till och från Sverige, eller som passerar servrar i Sverige, avlyssnas och lagras av Försvarets Radioanstalt, FRA.
From History Today :
Dates: 19 June 2014
What is Social History?
From National Archives :
Dates: 20 June 2014
Subject : Declassified Diplomacy with Brazil: National Security Archive Hails Obama Administration.
Declassified Diplomacy with Brazil:
National Security Archive Hails Obama Administration Decision to Assist Brazilian Truth Commission
Washington, D.C., June 20, 2014 -- The Obama administration advanced the principle of international openness, accountability and support for human rights this week when Vice President Joe Biden transferred to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff a set of newly declassified U.S. government documents relating to Brazil's military dictatorship, which held power from 1964 - 1985.
Visiting Brazil for the World Cup soccer competition, Biden announced that the Administration would conduct a further review and release of still secret U.S. records to help to the Brazilian Truth Commission; the commission is investigating human rights abuses under military rule and due to issue its final report at the end of 2014. The documentation, Biden stated, would be "of particular interest" to President Rousseff who was a political prisoner and torture victim herself during the military regime. (Diario do Podar, June 17, 2014) "I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future," Reuters quoted Biden as saying. (Reuters, June 17, 2014)
Biden's announcement comes as the U.S. and Brazil are attempting to mend fences in the aftermath of revelations that the National Security Agency had tapped President Rousseff's cell phone and spied on other Brazilian government agencies.
Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's Brazil project, commended the Obama administration for the document donation, and hailed the Vice President's "virtuous use of declassified diplomacy." According to Kornbluh, "Biden's diplomatic gesture will not only assist the Truth Commission in shedding light on the dark past of Brazil's military era, but also create a foundation for a better and more transparent future in U.S.-Brazilian relations."
The United States covertly supported the military coup that deposed President Joao Goulart on April 1, 1964, and maintained close ties to Brazil's military rulers during the dictatorship. American diplomats, intelligence operatives and military personnel reported routinely, and in detail, about regime policies -- and abuses. The Archive has obtained the release of portions of this critically important historical record through the Freedom of Information Act, and has posted a number of files relating to the U.S. role in the 1964 coup that brought the dictatorship to power.
Since the inauguration of the Brazilian Truth Commission in May 2012, the Archive's Brazil project has been pressing the Obama Administration to conduct a special declassification to assist the Commission's investigation. With the encouragement of the National Security Archive and others, in recent years U.S. presidents have shared similar records with other governments seeking to recapture their troubled pasts, including in Chile, Guatemala and Ecuador.
Rousseff's government has been an active proponent of freedom of information. Brazil served as co-chair of the Obama-led Open Government Partnership. In 2012, the country implemented a new information access law, taking a further step out of the persistent shadow of two decades of military rule.
From Financial Times :
Dates: 22 June 2014
Subject : Folk Art and Fine Art, and decline in the market of abstractions over sentient realities.
Folk art and fine art
From : Consortium News :
Dates: 23 June 2014
Subject: Killing people as if they were abstractions.
When I saw the Washington Post’s banner headline, “U.S. sees risk in Iraq airstrikes,” I thought, “doesn’t that say it all.”
by Ray McGovern
From : Truth Dig :
Dates: 23 June 2014
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reflect back to us the ghoulish face of American empire. They are the specters of the hundreds of thousands of people we murdered in our deluded quest to remake the Middle East.
by Chris Hedges
From : Information Clearing House :
Dates: 23 June 2014
ISIS commander says, ‘USA decision to hit us will have a positive outcome and will show a US/Al-Maliki alliance against the Sunni”.
From Historians Against the War :
Dates: 23 June 2014
Subject : [haw-info] Under Iraq Shadow-House Passes Large Pentagon Budget.
With the Obama Administration debating the extent of US military intervention in Iraq, Congressional voices are especially important.
Under the shadow of Iraq, the House of Representatives voted on the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill last week. The bill totaled $571 billion, including $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. The exact purpose of $ 79.4 billion is left ambiguous-- but these funds could readily be used to extend US military operations in Afghanistan beyond December 2014, or to fund new operations in Iraq.
We are including Roll-Calls on key amendments and the final bill. It would be helpful to consider what role historians can play as this legislation goes to the Senate. This is an important opportunity for letters to the editor, op.ed. pieces, calls to Congressional offices and other initiatives. Hanging in the balance is the military re-involvement of the United States in Iraq, as well longstanding issues of war and peace.
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg and Margaret Power for the HAW-SC
Last week the House of Representatives voted on a series of amendments to the HR 4870 Defense Appropriation bill. Among the key amendments were those introduced by Barbara Lee--to prevent US military intervention in Iraq and to bring to an end to all combat operations in Afghanistan. All were defeated by varying margins. (Use links below to see the Roll-Calls)
*** Even though these particular amendments were defeated, It is very significant and distressing that by a margin of 342-73 the House passed a $571 billion Defense Appropriations bill. This is not just the House Republicans. A significant majority of Democrats supported it as well--far more than were willing to support the Pentagon budget last year.
For Roll-call on the bill as a whole
For votes on Representative Lee's amendments on Iraq and Afghanistan, use links below.
Rejected 165-250 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to be used for the purposes of conducting combat operations in Iraq.
Rejected 182-231 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit use of funds to be obligated or expended pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
Rejected 157-260 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit use of funds to be obligated or expended pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military of Force after December 31, 2014.
Rejected 153-260 Lee (D-CA), to prohibit use of funds for the purpose of conducting combat operations in Afghanistanafter December 31, 2014.