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World Water Crisis: Focus On India.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Major Problems of the Twenty-First Century: Access to Clean Water

“Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The image of women lined up to get access to relatively clean drinking water from delivery trucks, in the slums outside of Delhi, is a stark reminder of the realities faced by some millions of persons across the planet who do not have ready access to either clean drinking water or adequate sanitation. Michael Spencer writing about water issues in “The Last Drop” describes the growing problem accessing clean water around the world. The author focuses on India, making comparisons with water policies in the United States, surveying water issues and suggested solutions for the emerging potable water crisis. (Specter 2006).

The Word Heath Organization (WHO) states that some 2.5 billion people laced improved sanitation, 1 billion practice open defecation, 748 million lack access to improved drinking water and that 1.8 billion people use water that suffers from fecal contamination These figures, although better than the ones cited in the 2006 article by Specter who claimed approximately half of the world population have inadequate sanitation or water, demonstrate that there is still a huge problem. The WHO figures indicate a drop in cases of childhood death from diarrhea from 1.5 million in 1990 to 600 thousand in 2012, and with some 2.3 billion people gaining access to improved water supplies in the same period (WHO, UN Water 2014).
The article notes that there are solutions involving expensive engineering such as dam building and desalination plants, which demand a lot of infrastructure but are popular among politicians and policy makers, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru then Prime Minster of India said, speaking of a new dam project “Bhakra-Nangal Project is something tremendous, something stupendous, something which shakes you up when you see it. Bhakra, the new temple of resurgent India, is the symbol of India’s progress” (Spector 2006, np). They are expensive and often benefit or even induce the development of large agribusiness operations at the expense of small farmers as the example of the battle over the Narmada Dam project in Gujarat in which the activist author Arundhati Roy participated (Specter 2006, np). Another path is that of conservation, repair of infrastructure, charging agricultural interests at a rate that would encourage a switch to cost effective methods and the use of low tech solutions such as collecting rainwater. The example of Chennai is used to demonstrate a city without access to adequate water supplies dependent upon rainfall. Rather than go for an expensive water desalination system a local expert, one S. Janakarajan points would rebuild the traditional, pre-British occupation system of catching rainwater, change government policy to encourage local farmers to switch from water intensive rice, which is partially a legacy of the Green Revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s, to other crops, and clean up and rebuild the areas ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, which he claims would end the recurrent water crisis in the region at a minimum of expense (Specter, 2006, np). Cotton is another area where India has been a traditional producer, with some 5000 years of a tradition of cotton growing by sustainable means, but is now facing a crisis as unregulated use of pipe well water has been draining the underground aquifers faster than the replenishment rate chasing the needs of the water hungry crop only exacerbated by the introduction of GMO modified high yield varieties (Gutierrez, et al, 2015). Los Angeles could benefit from a rainwater recovery program, something that should have begun with the California Proposition 1, Water Bond which was intended to relieve drought conditions in the state (California Proposition 1 2014).
The article points out that the water crisis is upon us and that mechanisms have to be devised to not only conserve but the develop water resources a manner that is equitable. The proposals to reduce water subsidies to farmers at the expense of retail consumers has become a major issue as more and more of the world’s population moves into the urban environment. Strain on water systems, already severe indicate the need for a major focus in the world on water sources. There are some problems, including not focusing on what is being done through the United Nations to alleviate the problem world-wide, and emphasis on what seems to be a Bush era focus on market based solutions in an otherwise important article bringing attention to an important issue.
While I don’t like the idea of privatizing water, as companies like Nestle buy up access to water resources with the intent of treating a vital common resource as a commodity, it is critical that civil society mobilize around the issue to insure that clean, water is available for all. Charging a usage fee via metered non-profit rates that allow for infrastructure repair and extension to meet future needs makes sense, forcing the poor to pay for privatized water while, sectors like agribusiness get government subsidies is inherently unfair and contributes to waste. Technologies to monitor water usage, as they come on line, especially if they can be delivered at low cost can be helpful in helping consumers make smart choices, but major changes in lifestyle will be much harder. India at least is ahead of the game in one respect, with a large vegetarian majority at least one aspect of the virtual cost of water use is less than it is in a country like the USA where water intensive beef has become a model of prosperity around the world that it is unlikely to be sustainable on a massively larger scale if water needs are to be met. Changing lifestyle, policy and approaches will be needed to meet the impending crisis in potable water. Working with the UN through the WHO and organizations like UNICIEF are paths that can immediately effect change around the world, but there needs to be changes in consumer usage and agricultural practice especially for more efficient water use and planning. A concerted international approach, with a focus on practical solutions on the ground, that do not strictly focus on hard tech dam and desalination approach advocated in the pages of trade publications such as International Water Power and Dam Construction, although certainly as Specter notes, places like India need to build infrastructure for water if they are to be able to move forward on a sustainable development trajectory. The question becomes, what is sustainable?
Works Cited
California Proposition 1, Water Bond (2014). Ballotpedia the Encyclopedia of American Politics. Accessed 30 September, 2015. http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_1,_Water_Bond_(2014).
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Poets.org. American Academy of Poets. Accessed 29 September 2015. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/rime- ancient-mariner
Gutierrez, Andrew, Luigi Ponti, Hans Herren, Johann Baumgärtner, and Peter Kenmore. 2015. Deconstructing Indian Cotton: Weather, Yields, and Suicides. Environmental Sciences Europe. 27, no. 1: 1-17. Doi: 10.1186/s12302-015-0043-8. Accessed 30 September 2015. http://www.enveurope.com/content/27/1/12.
International Water Power and Dam Construction. 2015. Global Trade Media. Accessed 30 September, 2015.http://www.waterpowermagazine.com/
Spector, Michael. 2006. The Last Drop. The New Yorker. 23 October. Accessed 19 September 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/10/23/the-last-drop-2.
WHO World Health Organization, UN-Water. 2014. Investing in water and sanitation: increasing access, reducing inequalities. UN-water global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking-water (GLASS) Report 2014 - report. Eds. World Health Organization. WHO 2015. Accessed 29 September 2015. http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/glaas_report_2014/en/

Myth, Sex, Forgetting: The Promethean Experiment at Love Canal

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Young residents in Love Canal joined the protest. (Center for Health and Environmental Justice)

Myth, Sex, Forgetting, and the Promethean Experiment at Love Canal
By Gary Crethers
The erotic symbolism in the “Love Canal” events cannot be missed, and if one takes a feminist, or psychoanalytical perspective on this, one discovers a fertile ground in which to plant the seeds in the darkness, where hidden from view, life takes form, in a sense every pregnancy is an act of faith, a forgetting of all the pain and suffering that will come as a consequence. In this case the ground was planted with the seeds of destruction and the forgetting of pregnancy, led to the literal birth of monsters. Myth, informs the story, whether the sewing of the dragon’s teeth to raise the sons of Ares, the opening of Pandora’s box, a subsidiary myth to the tale of Prometheus, or the Herculean task of clean up afterwards, these examples help inform us as we attempt to comprehend what man has wrought. The female sex organs, receiving the seeds of life, in this case can be seen metaphorically as being seeded with death by the male dominated social system. While forgetting of painful events such as prior child births, and in former times, the very likely chance of infant mortality, in this case the natural process taken in analogous form to any cycle of creation can be aborted or cruelly deformed. Forgetting is a natural process but when it has been deliberately intercepted by parties with consciously or unconsciously evil intent, it becomes a rape, in this case of the place called love canal, we forget traumas, sometimes to our peril (Ricoeur, 259, 445).

Children and babies were the most at risk for health effects from chemical exposure. (Fierce Green Fire)

The sexual undertones of the controversy run through the chapter. In the first paragraph of the Chapter “Love Canal and the Law of Unintended Consequences,” Professor Andrew Jenks writes “The canal thus became an attempt to create a new and more perfect world, a ‘Model City,’ in the words of its creator (Jenks, 43). Here we see creation, the “mysterious man named William T Love” (43), already fraught with symbolism, the Marlboro man, myth is full of mysterious strangers. “Love told rapt audiences that the region had been passed over” (44), add the imagery of a pied piper, a demagogue with promises of harnessing the powers of nature, to create the “most beautiful city in the world’ (44), add Cinderella, being lifted out of obscurity to her rightful position by the potent Prince Charming, and we have Niagara falling into his lap and the state willing to give this promethean spirit the power to create his own “Model City” (44).

In the late 1890’s, William T. Love got the idea for a industrial city built around a 6 mile long canal connecting the Niagara river to lake Ontario.

The excavations were begun; the Earth was plowed for the seeds to be planted for this wonderful child of William T. Love, and the seduced Niagara Falls. But alas the man turned out to be no hero, he failed, abandoning his commitments, leaving an unattended gash 3000 feet rather than the 5 mile trench he had advertised. Blaming the general depression of the times, Niagara went to find new suitors, in this case Hooker Electro-Chemical, another name fraught with symbolism like the dastardly landlord coming to take advantage of the abandoned maiden with a new career, no longer producing “a monument to the progressive spirit,” but “bought the canal and transformed it into a chemical waste dump” (44). The ingredients now existed for a Frankenstein’s monster, as Mary Shelly wrote “I kept my workshop of filthy creation…dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion” (Shelley, 39). Notice the filthy location, the waste material utilized, the human nature that would have him turn away, and the compulsion, such as perhaps the creators of the Atomic bomb felt, urged on by an itch, in this case a war, a competition among male scientists in World War 2, to create this monster that had been conceived of in the decades before the war. Pandora opened the box. The God’s to punish Prometheus and man had created a baleful gift in a beautiful woman who given to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus whose name means afterthought, had let loose the side effects from the theft of fire and these, given to the forgetful brother, were to have consequences in the Love Canal (Schwab, 33-34).

Athena and Hephaestus working on creation of Pandora (Ancient White Ground Vase Painting)

Better nature, the feminine aspect, noted and ignored, the deed done, as we return to Love Canal. The seed had been planted by the clients of the gatekeeper personalized by Frank Ventry, who when the Army came to unload, “I was requested to loosen up the dirt in the area where the drums were to be dropped,” acting as the abettor of these midnight visits, he further states, “At no time during my tenure of responsibility in the Love Canal area was I required to sign for material placed in the dump nor maintain an inventory…there was no specific criteria to reject material from being dumped” (Ventry qtd. in Jenks, 69). All that was lacking was the passage of a satchel of cash into Ventry’s hands to make the image of a pimp complete. That we would assume was being handled by his superiors, or worse, this was a case of a negligent spouse allowing his ward to be abused by strangers willy-nilly. “Most of the factories in the surrounding area dumped including the Army” (68), Ventry stated. Love Canal was open to all comers, in the stealth of the night they came and dumped their loads and then left (47), without a trace, only the fading memory of the warden Ventry. Forgetting being important in the period of gestation, just as the chemical brew was allowed to form into its vile creation.

Ten years after the incident, New York State Health Department Commissioner David Axelrod stated that Love Canal would long be remembered as a “national symbol of a failure to exercise a sense of concern for future generations.”

People were allowed to move into the area. The Niagara Falls, school board, allowed a school to be built on the site where dirt had been placed over the swill, in 1952, seemingly oblivious to the warnings that Hooker gave the school district when selling the land for a symbolic dollar (44, 48). A suburban development was built in the area named after Love, and the State of New York built a road through the enclosed area, providing a breach in what little containment there was, an example of amnesia as Jenks notes (49). By the 1970’s “residents noticed a nasty black liquid percolating through, the cracks of the school playground” (49), and the disaster had begun. The monster was beginning to rear its head. The seed planted in ignorance, as Oedipus had slept with his mother in an ignorance that ignored prophecy. Schwab describes in his version of Oedipus, who had sinned against nature, “the Furies were to give Oedipus peace and absolution for his sins against nature” and these female spirits of vengeance for the wronged earth were the only ones to show man a way out (Schwab, 241). Trapped in a materialistic linear view, focused on profits and goals, there was no way for the male dominated forces who created the mess in Love Canal to bring their attention to the problem without some power representing the elemental aspects of nature, the furies of the offended environment.

Lois Gibbs, a former resident and community leader, looks at Love Canal during a commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the toxic waste landfill August 1, 2003 in Niagara Falls, New York. (Harry Scull Jr./Getty)

Women, the betrayed females, not direct participants in the unspoken bargain between the companies, the workers, and the governing officials, which sacrificed the area for the sake of jobs and temporary prosperity (Jenks, 48), were now the leaders of the revolt as they formed the Love Canal Home owners Association, and women such as Lois Gibbs took the forefront demanding assistance from the responsible parties to get them out of the area which reporters and health officials increasingly proved to be dangerous to the health of residents (50). This female led revolt, by the primary care givers of children, the ones who primarily nursed sick children, met at PTA meetings and while picking up the kids from school and playgrounds (this might be anachronistic, back then most kids went to school and playgrounds unsupervised), would have opportunities to compare notes and notice the direct health effects that their spouses, could not, or would not due to participating in the unwritten contract. Amnesia for the men was a coping mechanism, a way to do the job and ignore the consequences. Jenks writes of Lois Gibbs recollection who “was stunned when she witnessed grown men crying for the first time” (51). This a direct result of being forced to face the realities and wake up from the walking dream that all was well and being done for the sake of the family. It was being done for survival by the workers and for profits by the corporations. The blind eye, and forgetting was good for business, Hooker had grown “from $19 million in sales in 1945 to $1.7 billion in 1978, around the time of its sale” (47). Business, national security, a plethora of male determined profit and national interests had become the driver and the reason in which this particular forgetting had become convenient. Like the former beauty queen haven fallen upon hard times, no one wanted to look, or remember what had once been. Instead there was the cosmetic of dirt thrown over the problem and the demon seeds planted in toxic soil rose like so many warriors from the Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts who had sewn the dragon’s teeth it was a woman, Medea with her knowledge of nature who saved Jason (Schwab, 115-121). It was the actions of women like Rachel Carson, and Lois Gibbs, bringing attention to the nation via an astute use of media that awoke the nation from its sleep to reveal the many headed Hydra of toxic waste. The Herculean task of clean up, again we resort to Myth, to cope with the sheer overwhelming nature of the task we can look to the fifth labor of Hercules, cleaning of the Augean Stables (171), to gain some comprehension of the task. It is in myth that we find our answers, because it is in the collective mythology of progress that we created the mess, like young Frankenstein, obsessed with his urge, following it despite his better, and female influenced nature. By following the lead of the nurturers, and not the seed givers alone, thus, we awaken from the dreams sterile creation. Without nurturing the ground from whence life derives, all efforts seem to come to bitter consequences as the sleeper is rudely awakened.

In 1978 the EPA came to Love Canal along with the Federal Disaster Assistance Agency and started the clean up.

Works Cited
Jenks, Andrew. “Love Canal and the Law of Unintended Consequences.” Perils of Progress. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011.
Ricoeur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Schwab, Gustav. Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece. New York: Pantheon Books, 1946.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Signet Classic, 2000.

Burford’s Arcadia: Ancient Greek Agriculture, Slavery and Democracy

Monday, May 4th, 2015

slavery-in-ancient-greece.jpg />
Image: Berlin Foundry Cup,Foundry Painter, Red figure kylix, c. 490
From lecture podcast on Ancient Greek Slavery by Dr Gillian Shepherd
http://podcast.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/2014/05/06/lecture-slavery-in-ancient-greece/

Below is a book review written for my Classics class on Ancient Greek History I had fun writing it but had to edit it down for the class. Perhaps I will post the long version at a later point in time. I focus on the issue of slavery in the ancient Greek world as well as agriculture and the creation of the classical Greek demos.

Burford, Allison. Land and Labor in the Greek World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1993.
Allison Burford’s study of the ancient Greek agricultural world is based primarily on the extant ancient literary sources with some reference to archeological research, epigraphic and papyrus material as well as numerous secondary sources. As she states in the preface, Burford has not written an exhaustive reference work on the legal and technical aspects of land ownership, nor is it a statistical study of land tenure and agricultural practices over the course of the period, roughly the Eighth through the Second centuries BCE (Burford, ix). Basing her study upon a suggestion by M. I. Finley, she examines aspects of ancient Greek agricultural practices (x). The author argues that Greek civilization was based in agriculture and the ability to find free time from agricultural labor to via the labor of others, indicating that chattel slavery in Athens, and the institution of helotry in Sparta, for example provided much of the means for this freedom (1-3). She focuses more on the fundamental relationship between town and country emphasizing that agriculture concerned much of the population’s interest (3, 10). She also argues that the farming practices described in Hesiod’s Works and Days, were essentially the same as those of the time of Xenophon in his Oeconomicus written some three centuries apart, negating much of the idea of a transition from pastoralism, or the concept of an agricultural revolution in the Fifth century BCE (8-9, Morris, 1294). For Burford “the Classical city-state is, then, the developed image of the early community, not an entirely different creature” (12). Burford is interested in showing the continuity of the dependence upon agriculture and how it shaped ancient Greek civilization (12).
Alison Burford Cooper published studies in ancient social and economic history, including The Greek Temple Builders at Epidaurus (1969), Craftsmen in Greek and Roman Society (1972), and Land and Labor in the Greek World (1993). Born in England, she read Classics at Cambridge University. After teaching at the University of Nebraska and the University of North Carolina–Asheville, she and her husband Guy L. Cooper retired in Ann Arbor (Cooper, 1). The work under consideration, written near the end of her academic career seems to sum up her position regarding the importance of agriculture in the ancient Greek world building upon the work primarily of M. I. Finley.
Burford describes the dependence upon domestic food production and anxiety over the annual harvest as being primary to the Greek economy and civilization (Burford 2-3). She describes agriculture outside of Attica and Athens, especially descriptions of the Spartan system, but because of the dearth of literary source material, her focus is primarily, almost necessarily, upon Athens and Attica. She goes into some detail on the types of agricultural practices, division of land between productive agricultural and the more marginal upland where grazing occurred. She asserts that it was the exchange of surpluses locally and not dependence on international trade, even in Athens, except briefly during the Imperial period, was the driving force of daily life and policy of ancient Greeks (3).
Burford focuses on the mechanisms of land ownership, asserting that the state had overriding concerns and that the polis could and would intervene in private ownership, calling the polis “proprietor in chief of all landed assets within its boundaries” (16). This was true in Athens as well as the more obvious case of Sparta. She goes into some detail on efforts to make land distribution among citizens equal, not only in the new colonies but within the polis, citing Aristotle among others and examples from city states besides Athens (28). She then discusses the actual inequality of land distribution and the “concept of ‘ancestral portions’” asserting that the relationship between families and their land as going back to the foundations of communities and the preservation of the oikos through the “assured transfer of inheritance within the family, preferably from father to son” (29, 34-35). The legal dispute over distribution of the estate of one Hagnias of Athens, who had no children, became a multigenerational affair involving increasingly distant relations, to me indicates the power of families in property rights and privileges of the citizens within the context of the polis, whereas Burford sees the fact of intervention on the part of the courts as an indication of state power (43-45). Litigation rather than blood feuds is an advance of sorts.
She goes into some discussion of the position of the female inheritors, the epikleros who “had no independent rights to property,” but essentially used as a means of insuring that property stayed within the greater family or oikos to the extent that a male relative designated to marry an epikleros, had to divorce his existing spouse (46). Burford sees this as an indication that the community was more concerned with maintaining the stability of the oikos as the basis for the polis, citing Solon’s law providing for the dowry of an epikleroi with no estate by proscribing that the members of the pentakosiomedimnoi provide for epikleroi of the thetes within a family group (47). It seems to me that the state control of property is exaggerated and the families of the oligarchs still seem to have undue influence in the countryside even after the reforms of Solon as I will discuss further.
For the most part Greeks rejected feudal like peasantry an unacceptable status, one of being subservient to a greater lord, as was the case in Athens when Solon abolished indentured servitude. Defining helotry as feudal peasantry, according to Burford is not helpful, although I personally did not clearly understand the distinction she was trying to make other than to insure that readers would not look to medieval equivalency (85-86). The popular rebellion against indentured servitude by the citizens led directly or indirectly to the increased slavery of foreigners in Athens in my mind.
M.I. Finley’s contention that Athenian democracy was a result of chattel slavery, is taken up by Burford with her initial assertion that “chattel slavery became concomitant of radical democracy, and at the same time many landowners took a hand in working their own land” (3). Michael Jameson, agreeing with De Ste Croix, says “one might almost say that in the ancient world there was no true freedom without slavery” (Jameson, 122). Finley asserts that large scale agriculture of the wealthy classes was largely undertaken by slaves, including the overseers, indicates in my mind an oligarchic reaction to labor cost increases and the desire for control (Finley, Was Greek Civilization based on Slave Labor, 149).
Burford argues that in “Attica as in Chios and numerous other places, chattel slavery became the most important form of labor, not because the pelatai or thetes, the ‘nearby dependents,’ were reduced to slavery but because they were emancipated” (Burford, 209). This is an important point, as Finley points out using the analogy of the USA slave states before the American Civil War, he notes that three quarters of the land owners in the south had not connection to slavery and were small holders, yet close to one third of the population in the slave states were slaves, whereas in Classical Greece the practice of slave holding was more widespread (Finely, Was Greek Civilization, 151). Burford, discussing Attica, believes that the reforms of Solon reduced the availability of easily coercible labor, increasing the dependence on chattel slavery (Burford, 209). Burford cites Homer’s story of Eumaeus (Od. 15.415-84), Odysseus’ swineherd who had been kidnapped by Phoenician traders and sold into slavery as an example of piracy as a source of slaves as well as an example of the prevalence of slavery (Burford, 208). The question of Athens increased participation in the slave trade as a driver of empire, especially mass collusion versus resistance on the part of the thetes is an interesting issue. Were the oarsmen active slavers?
Contrasting Burford’s decidedly landlocked views on the shaping of Greek civilization are the views of those who would emphasize trade and naval power especially during the period of the Athenian Thalassocracy. Ian Morris, in his review of Burford, claims she doesn’t give enough weight to the “new model” of Greek agriculture with a shift to a market orientation Athens in the Fifth century BCE (Morris, Review, 1294). John Hale in his Lords of the Sea claims that without the navy there would not have developed the extreme form of Athenian democracy, the degree of democratization was due to the dependence of the Athenian Navy upon the urban poor for oarsmen (Hale, xxvii). David Lewis notes that trade with Barbarian parts of the world was required to maintain the extensive slave population required in the Athenian economy (Lewis, 91). This would tend to support the contention that there were economic drivers to the expansion of the Athenian Empire. Lewis considers the Greek Comedies as rich source of information on Greek attitudes about slavery; Aristophanes Scythian archers, the slave police force of Athens, are prominent in Lysistrata (Lewis, 100; Findley, Was Greek Civilization, 152; Lis. 15-24). Burford gives little if any information about the complexity of the relationship between overseas trade, slavery and agriculture.
I think that exploring further the implications of the slave trade and the economic basis of the more industrial aspects of Athenian agriculture in particular would have been helpful as Jameson points out the locus of slavery in Athens, unlike the more feudal like conditions in Sparta, where helotry actually inhibited urbanization similar in some ways to the American pre-civil war south, rather he points to slavery as being indicative of the importance of Athens as a trade and industrial center (Jameson, 123). One could be tempted to see the relative sympathy of the Oligarchs in Athens to the Spartans due to a confluence of interest in maintaining a lucrative slave market, with Nicias having some one thousand in the silver mines alone, the would have been sufficient economic reasons for a convergence of interest (Finley, Was Greek Civilization, 149). Aristophanes reminded his audience of the Athenian rescue of Sparta from the helots, (even if this was fictional, it would seem to have been a popular fiction) “Then Cimon went, taking four thousand infantry, /and saved the whole of Lacedaemon for your state,” indicating a resounding normalcy of slavery in Athens making a keener focus on the nature of dependence on slavery to be of even more interest (Lys. 42).
As the entire world population at least until the nineteenth century was primarily agricultural, and much of that of a subsistence nature, Burford’s focus on what the majority of the population did for a living is a good idea. D.W. Rathbone, reviewing Burford, is critical of the lack of focus on the growth of monetization, or any exposition of the field surveys and excavations of rural sites in more than a cursory manner (Rathbone, 330-331), to which I would add lack of geographic and topographic imagery in the form of maps, charts or photographic information, is to be regretted. Stylianos Spyridakis although largely praising her work, found the omission of evidence for a stronger case to be made for wealth generation outside of the purely agricultural sphere, pointing to trade in particular (Spyridakis, 107). Overall the impression is that Burford certainly went to great pains and into great detail to prove her point as to the rural nature of the Greek economy, but it presents a relatively static view of Greek agriculture. The book presents a massive amount of research mainly from the literary sources. The author tends to focus on detailed information giving the impression of a relatively static rural society over the time period with Hesiod and Homer side by side with Xenophon and Aristotle, where things happen, but there is not the focus on trends in population pressure, climatic conditions, the slave trade, etc. that would create a more dynamic model of the Greek world as it relates to the natural systems and practices of the populace over time. The book provoked a desire in this reader for more statistical data to verify the literary sources.
Works Cited
Aristophanes. Lysistrata. Translation and introduction by Donald Sutherland. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1961.
Burford, Allison. Land and Labor in the Greek World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1993.
Cooper, Alison Burford. “Feasting and Fasting in Classical Greece.” Repast Quarterly Newsletter of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor. 20. 4. 2004.
Finley, M. I. “Was Greek Civilization based on Slave Labor?” Historia: Zeitshrift fur Alte Geschichte, 8.2 (1959): 145-164.
Finley, M. I. The Ancient Economy. Updated Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1999.
Hale, John R. Lords of the Sea The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy. New York: Viking Penguin. 2009.
Jameson, Michael J. “Agriculture and Slavery in Classical Athens.” The Classical Journal. 73. 2 (1977- 1978): 122-145.
Lewis, David. “Near Eastern Slaves in Classical Attica and the Slave Trade with Persian Territories.” Classical Quarterly, 61.1 (2011): 91-113.
Morris, Ian. “Forward.” The Ancient Economy. Updated edition, Berkeley: University of California Press. 1999. ix-xxxvi.
Morris, Ian. “Land and Labor in the Greek World.” The American Historical Review, 99.4 (1994): 1293- 1294.
Rathbone, D. W. “Burford, A. ‘Land and Labor in the Greek World’ (Book Review).” Classical Review, 44.2 (1994): 330.
Spyridakis, Stylianos. “Land and Labor in the Greek World.” Agricultural History, 68.1 (1994): 106-107.

Near Eastern Influences on Archaic Period Greece

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaeological Museum of Athens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Persian_Wars#/media/File:Greek-Persian_duel.jpg
img src=”http://www.crystalinks.com/Greco_PersianWars.jpg” alt=”" /

I recently posted this book review I did for an ancient Greek survey class. I have have had some health issues recently and had to drop most of my classes. Work has been excessively demanding and has taken up most of my waking hours, and being sick just left me too drained to continue most of my studies. I did manage to hang onto this one class and I am thoroughly enjoying my hours immersed in the Greeks. The question has come up in my mind, as I watch Congress fawning over Israel and evincing seemingly irrational fear of Iran, as to why this anti Iranian sentiment. It is more than simply the result of the Iranian take over of the embassy in Tehran. This is deeper cultural stuff. As I was thinking about the Greco-Persian Wars, I realized that the anti-Persian propaganda goes back to the ancient Greeks and the wars against the Persian Empire in the 5th Century BCE. Since the study of ancient Greece goes back to at least the 18th Century in elite American and Western European culture, this prejudice, part of a greater fear of Oriental domination, ingrained by experiences with the Muslims and Turks more specifically in the case of Europe, all has influenced the current political climate. I applaud the Obama administration for its breaking through to a more rational position vis a vie Iran.

I hope you enjoy reading my review.

Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Trans. Margaret E. Pinder and Walter Burkert. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press. 1992).

Burkert’s book is dedicated to the exploration of oriental influences in Greek culture particularly in the archaic period of the ninth through sixth centuries BCE. Burkert starts with evidence from scraps of Greek literature bolstered by an examination of the artifacts remaining from the period. He considers the period of the Assyrian battles for domination on the coast of Northern Syria in the later Ninth century and again in the later eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, in particular to be seminal in the diversification of Oriental knowledge among the Greeks, with refugee craftsmen relocating to the Greek speaking regions among others (Burkert 11-14).
Specific example Burkert uses for an early immigration is that of a family of goldsmiths and gem cutter in Knossos who reused a Minoan tomb consecrating it with oriental style foundation deposits in approximately 800 BCE known as the “Tomb of the Goldsmiths” (22, 54). He goes into a rather extensive description of the traditions of the “public workers,” or demioergoi (Od. 17.383-385 qtd. in Burkert 23), writing of their ability to move about due to their skills of techne (23). He indicates that immigrant potters, and vase painters came from Egypt, Lydia and Phrygia also, noting that as late as Aristotle craftsmen were as a rule described as immigrant non-citizens, and often slaves (23).

Banded Jug with Oriental Influences

The seventh century began with the influence of Oriential Style are influencing the current Geometric Style. Images of lions, foreign goddesses followed by strange animals, and the sphynx were all elements introduced into greek vase painting by eastern culture. The brunt of the oriental influence came from the greek east that had the most contact with eastern civilization. The areas of Rhodes, Samos, and Miletus had a strong influence on this trend.

(Carter, np)

Burkert also describes in some detail the transfer of magical and religious rituals and traditions citing the bronze liver models from Mesopotamia in clay and the very similar Etruscan liver model from Piacenza in the third century BCE and being an example of a clear transfer of systems of belief from the east to the west, in this case hepatoscopy or haruspicina, divination by interpreting sheep livers in particular (Burkert 46-48). He indicates that there was a very specific Assyrian school with a systemic approach that was somewhat abstracted from nature, also followed in their own system of saecula by the Etruscans (48, 49-50). The Greeks he argues followed a more naturalistic and behavioral model in interpretation with it becoming the preferred form of divination into the classical period as Burkert cites from Plato (49). He considers “the spread of hepatoscopy one of the clearest examples of cultural contact in the orientalizing period” (51). The mobility of seers and healers or “migrant charismatics” as he calls them, is a key part of the spread of oriental wisdom to the west along with the traders and craftsmen.

Burkert spends some time denouncing the “anti-oriental reflex” (3) as something that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries among German speaking academia, in particular, as an outgrowth of the “ideology of romantic nationalism” of Herder, the separation of philology from religion by Wolf and the new pagan influenced classicism of Winckemann (2). The emergence of national romanticism is seen by the author as part of the grounds in which anti-Semitism gained influence in classical studies. The discovery of the Indo-European linguistic base for most European languages, along with Sanskrit and Persian, furthered what was at the time a Greek-Roman-Germanic view of the world (2). A strong motivation for Burkert is quite evident in his almost crusader like approach to rehabilitating the Oriental and Semitic influence in particular in this study of the Archaic period of Greek history. He notes later in the text that Beloch went out of his way to separate “Rhodian Zeus Atabyrios from Mount Atabyron =Tabor, the mountain in Palestine” claiming this as a clear cut case of anti-Semitism (34).

While I am not an authority on German academic anti-Semitism, it is fairly clear that until recently Semitic roots to many aspects of Greek culture has been limited. A simple scan of the citations from the East in the text book A Brief History of Ancient Greece describes the period after the decline of the Mycenaean Civilization mentions grave goods from Greek tombs, from the Near East that may have been a result of contact with “Near Eastern traders roaming the Aegean Sea” (Pomeroy et. al., 47). They mention the emergence of iron working after 1050 BCE as a result of trade in bronze making raw materials being cut off, rather than being the result of technology learned from the Hittites or other Near Eastern sources where “Iron technology was long known” (43). Mention is made of Hesiod deriving a history of the gods in his Theogony from ancient Mesopotamian stories, but then goes nowhere with that connection (57). Later describing Hesiod’s Works and Days where “Sermonizing poetry, so different from that of the Homeric narrative, was clearly influenced by the Ancient Genre of Near Eastern ‘wisdom literature’” (77). The colonization of the wider Mediterranean word is attributed to Greek traders in partnership with Phoenicians (59) and that the Greeks took up the phonetic writing system in the Eighth century for reasons that are called debatable (60). They do better describing the origins of art in the description of the “Orientalizing style” from the Near East and Egypt in about 720 BCE, but the description takes up a couple of sentences only (62) and their description of the emergence of the classic Greek Temple at that time doesn’t mention outside influences at all (62). This may seem fairly substantial but it seems to allude to rather than explore the influences of the East. Burkert sets about to develop the influences his and others influence can be seen in the text above.

Lady of Auxerre
Lady of Auxerra. Limestone, probably from Crete, ca 650-625 BCE.

Source: Boundless. “The Orientalizing Period.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 14 Nov. 2014. Retrieved 05 Apr. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/ancient-greece-6/the-geometric-and-orientalizing-periods-63/the-orientalizing-period-330-10889/

Burkert claims an eastern influence on the construction of large altars for burnt offerings and the large temples which he notes coincided with the period of movement of eastern craftsmen in the eighth century prior to which there had been no examples in Greece (Burkert, 20). The use of composite beasts and other animal motifs in pottery and sculpture are part of what has been known as the Orientalizing period as mentioned above. Creatures such as the Chimera have Hittite links, Triton’s to Mesopotamia, as well as lion motifs. He states that the sight of a lion would have been something unknown in the life of most Greeks (20). He goes on to say that “typically Greek” forms of portrayal of Zeus and Poseidon with the lightning bolt or the trident are derived from Syrio-Hittite statuettes. The same goes for the portrayal of the standing naked female goddess with hands touching breasts as being of Syrian origin (21). He goes on to state that the Hoplite weapons that came into use in the Archaic period were close to Assyrian and Urartian models, suggesting that mercenaries may have picked brought them back with them. Burkert notes the Carian and Ionian mercenaries in Egypt under Psammentichus among others in the seventh and sixth century (25). Burkert, a philologist, has an extensive discourse on the use of loan words from the Near East. He states that the earliest Greek writing shows up shortly before 750 BCE in Naxos, Ischia, Athens, and Euboea intersecting exactly with the time of the “trading connections of Iawones from Syria via Euboea to the West” (26). He says that while the exact location of the transfer may be hard to pinpoint, it occurred rather rapidly form Phrygians to the Etruscans in a matter of a few decades, indicating that the idea of a slow indigenous development of the Greek alphabet had been discredited by Lilian Jeffery’s work (27).

Burkert seems to go so far as to give short shrift to the Egyptian influence on Greek culture and religion. As he describes the possible roots of the Greek tradition of liver augury, describing the priest clan of the Tamiradae at Paphos claiming to have brought the tradition from Cilicia, citing Tacitus and discounting the earlier source Herodotus’ claim for an Egyptian source as being unfounded (49; note 16, 182). Although I understand is desire to accentuate Semitic roots, discounting Egyptian roots seems to be somewhat counterproductive. The distinctions being made by Burkert seemingly have more to do with late twentieth century revisionism than historical fact. Although his speculations on the migration of technology, myth, and religion seem perfectly valid, his emphasis on the Akkadian, Phoenician and Assyrian roots is noteworthy.

Bernal in his extensive review of Burkert, complains of the lack of inclusion of the Egyptians and of the narrow time frame in which Burkert sets the impact on Greek culture of the Near East (Bernal 138). Bernal has bigger fish to fry, he seems to be out to debunk the concept of the Dark Ages in Greece as one of isolation from which the Greeks emerged in the Archaic period stating “Burkert appears to share the Hellenocentric view that … the ‘Dark Ages’ provide a significant barrier between the cosmopolitan society of the palaces and the ‘repurified’ Greek society that emerged in the early eight century” (138). He goes on to argue that the initial Semitic influence goes back to the earliest period of Bronze Age Greece and Minoan Crete to the early second millennium BCE (144). While I agree with Bernal on his assessment on the weakness of the Egyptian influence in Burkert’s argument, I don’t read Burkert as excluding earlier influences so much as focusing on the Archaic period and expanding upon our understanding of the extent of the influence of dispersion of ideas across geographic regions.

Writing of purification rituals, Burkert describes how there is a wide literature available for magic rituals whereas that in Greek is brief, allusive or dependent on later reports Burkert, (Burkert, 56). He discusses the piglet bloodletting rituals in Aeschylus description of the purification of Orestes for murder (57). He mentions one example of ritual purification in the Iliad called lymata or dirty water being disposed of (57), Deciding to look for the citation I found (Il.1.313-314) “while Atreus’ son told his people to wash off their defilement. And they washed it away and threw the washing into the salt sea.” (Trans. Lat. 83). This seems to be related to the offense to Apollo and his priest. Seeking further information about the matter I found this extract on Theoi.com:

Arctinus of Miletus, The Aethiopis Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th B.C.): “Akhilleus [after slaying Thersites for his insults] sails to Lesbos and after sacrificing to Apollon, Artemis and Leto, is purified by Odysseus from bloodshed.” (Astima, Artemis n.p.).

An Apulian krater in the Louvre shows Apollo himself pouring the blood of the pig over Orestes Burkert affirms, although he does not show this image in the book (Burkert, 57). It is available on line from the web site of the Louvre in Paris. Below is the image described by Burkert with a description from the Louvre Museum in Paris where the krater is located:

The purification Orestes in Delphi.’ This exceptionally large bell-krater depicts the beginning of Aeschylus’s tragedy The Eumenides. The scene opens at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, symbolized by an altar surmounted by the Omphalos, the navel of the world. Orestes has taken refuge here, fleeing the Erinyes, the terrible goddesses of vengeance. He is still holding the dagger with which he has killed his mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge his father. Behind him stands Apollo, holding a laurel branch in one hand and, with the other, shaking a piglet above the young man’s head in a gesture of purification. Artemis, the god’s sister, stands by his side.

(Padel-Imbaud, np).

The ritual purification in the Semitic world involved the blood of a pig as Burkert indicates in an excerpt from Babylonian ritual texts of purification (Burkert, 58). There is much evidence of purification rituals in the Near East from which the Greeks could have picked up from traveling seers and healers the specific practices mentioned above He goes on to make the point that even Apollo had to undergo ritual purification after slaying the Python, by going to Crete which Burkert associates along with Cypress as a center for the early Orientalizing period. He also notes that there are indications that the cult of Apollo itself has links to Semitic culture including the rituals around the new moon and the seventh day of the month (61). Although he clearly states that not all coincidental similarities of names and timing of events, are not evidence of Semitic influences, he feels that not enough recognition of the links that are the most likely hypothesis are given credibility by experts in the field and this book goes a long way in rectifying that lack of credit.

With much detail and copious notes, half again as long as the book itself, Burkert packs in a short text of 129 pages plus 90 pages of notes and bibliography an extensive and well- argued case for the continuous and extensive interaction between the Near East and Archaic period Greece. While he doesn’t give much shrift to the continuity of prior connections during the Bronze age, focusing on the period from about 800 – 650 BCE, he does not state that this was the only period of interaction, but the main early period. As I have stated before he leaves Egyptian sources largely neglected, but his effort is primarily aimed at debunking the approach of Orientalists and Hellenists that tries to examine Greece as a pure case of indigenous brilliance as the source of western civilization separate from the Near Eastern cradle in which the Greek baby rocked.

Works Cited

Atsma, Aaron J. “Artemis Goddess.” Theoi Project 2000 - 2011, Accessed Feb. 21, 2015 http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/ArtemisGoddess.html

Bernal, Martin. “Burkert’s Orientalizing Revolution.” Arion, 4.2 (1996): 137-147.

Carter, Xxavier. “The Geometric Style Greek Archaeology,” Metamedia at Stanford http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/113/655. Last modified Sat Dec 17/2005 06:09. Accessed 4 April 2015.

Lattimore, Richmond, Trans. The Iliad of Homer. Introduction and notes Richard Martin. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 2911.

Padel-Imbaud, Sophie. “The purification of Orestes in Delphi.” Apulian red-figure bell-krateine 23. Collection Campana, 1861, 1861 Known as the “Eumenides Krater” Cp 710. Louvre, France. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/apulian-red-figure-bell-krater. Web, accessed 2/22/15.r. Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC) Sully wing 1st floor Galerie Campana V Room 44 Vitr

Pomeroy, Sarah B., Burstein, Stanley M., Donlan, Walter, Roberts, Jennifer Tolbert, and Tandy, David, W. A Brief History of Ancient Greece Politics, Society, and Culture. Third ed. New York: Oxford U. Press. 2014.

War Rhetoric, Bush, Obama, Hannibal, Rome, Hercules Myth & Abrahamic Cult

Sunday, September 14th, 2014


patriotaction.net

Here we go again. The US seems to have become implacably wedded to war, policing the world and using foreign policy distractions to bolster sagging domestic political fortunes. After 9/11 there was some reasonable justification for going into Afghanistan, to get a little payback although it probably would have been best treated as a police action. below are a couple of speeches by Bush and Obama respectively. They are thirteen years apart. Like empires before and would be imperial powers, the rhetoric needs to be designed to reflect the public willingness to be pulled into a conflict that may or may not be justified. In thinking about this I am reminded of some past efforts to convince others to join in the cause of a more or less just war. Hannibal and his use of the Hercules Myth in his struggle against Rome, is critical to an analysis of the fate of Carthage and its struggle with Rome.

“Seigel and Shuster created Superman from existing material already to hand: the myths of Samson, Hercules…”
From A Shared, Faithless, Modern Mythology: Superheroes as Modern Legends…By Darren April 22, 2012 Comicbuzz.com

My thesis more than the simple statement that nearness to the point of contention, sharpens one’s real politick, there is this interesting issue of manipulation of underlying myths for the sake of propaganda both current and ancient. Hercules was a heroic figure, an intermediary between man and the gods. He often represented the position of people facing the impossible demands of fate, despite his flawed nature, coming through victoriously and in the process thwarting the interests of the bad gods and their minions. Where is this Herculean character in the modern political discourse, certainly in the theatrical production of Marvel and DC super heroes this is the case. Where in the discourse on the level of believed mythologies, on the level of religions of the states involved. This goes to the meta-belief systems which in this case are embedded in the monotheism of the modern world. The patina of the heroic Babylonian-Greco-Roman world is faint and growing fainter as the past is blown up before our eyes in Iraq and Syria. But the monotheistic world, of the Crusader vs the infidel narrative and the relatively insecure position of the Jews plays out now. I shall concentrate on the Herculean myth; refer to modern rhetoric with a brief analysis of the use of the myth of Hercules in the Punic wars and the later Roman absorption of the myth in their own victorious narrative. Thus the issue becomes one of what significance do these meta-stories have in the development of the narrative and the real political issues the narrative deals with.

Bush declaration of attack on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.

Obama declaration of attack on ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

To go into Syria because of the beheading of a couple of journalists seems to be playing right into the hands of IS. They seem to be getting some strategic benefit from drawing the US into these costly limited wars. Wars that ultimately cannot be won without a serious deployment of boots on the ground to occupy space as well as the enforcement of a political agenda that may mean ramming terms down the throats of unwilling Middle Eastern states, through political, military and economic pressure. I am not sure the USA has the means or the will to pursue such a course and the IS planners like their counterparts in Al Qaeda know that.

“This cartoon, by David Axe and Matt Bors highlights some of the key developments in U.S. drone warfare”
(understandingempire.wordpress.com).
.
The war of attrition by taking out the heads of the leadership via assassination and drone strikes, has been of limited success, as one head is chopped off, Hydra like two more arise to take its place. The implication, if one takes the example of Hercules is that you need assistance on the ground, an ally who is there to cauterize the wound to prevent a new set of heads from emerging.

Hercules battles the multi-headed beast of terror in ancient world.
“The Hydra fighting Heracles | Paestan black figure hydra C6th B.C. | J. Paul Getty”
www.theoi.com

From Hesiod, Theogony:

And third again she [Ekhidna] bore
the grisly-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess
white-armed Hera nourished
because of her quenchless grudge
against the strong Herakles.
Yet he, Herakles, son of Zeus,
of the line of Amphitryon,
by design of Athene the spoiler,
and with help form warlike
Iolaos, killed this beast
with the pitiless bronze sword.

(Hesiod 316-321)

A lot can be learned from that ancient Greek myth. Hercules was the hero of the ancient world. He is given a more human and tragic by the Greeks with his rage and murder of his family, being thus forced to perform his penance in the 12 labors, one of which was killing the Hydra. This Hydra could not be tamed alone. An ally had to be sought. Herakles, as strong as he was could not fight the beast himself.

High tech warfare in the 3rd century BCE
mikikyqy.pev.pl

The struggle for control of the public image of the heroic is an ancient one. In the context of the Punic Wars Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles who has an interesting interpretation of Hannibal’s propaganda wars against the Romans, pitting Hercules/Melqart as the ally of Carthage and her friends as opposed to Rome who had its own myth of Heracles. For the Romans, as described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus a Greek rhetorician in the 1st century BC, Heracles becomes a great liberator of man. During his tenth labor, the restoration of the cattle of Geryon, he descends into Italy freeing the people from the despotism of tyrants such as Cacus (Miles 248-249).

Hercules killing Cacus By Beham, Hans Sebald 1545 in Iconotheca Valvasoriana” Wikimedia.

From Virgil we have the tale of Cacus’s defeat by Hercules in the Aeneid:

Then Hercules
burst wide the doorway of the sooty den,
and unto Heaven and all the people showed
the stolen cattle and the robber’s crimes,
and dragged forth by the feet the shapeless corpse
of the foul monster slain.

(Vergil. 8.262)
Hercules slaying the monster oppressing the local people thus becomes in Virgil, who is citing a tale that had been part of Roman lore. notes the worship of Hercules as preceding the founding of Rome:

our Pinarian house is vowed to guard
the rites of Hercules. An altar fair
within this wood they raised; ‘t is called ‘the Great,’
and Ara Maxima its name shall be.

(Vergil, 8. 262)

This has been noted in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome in the article on “Hercules in Roman Religion” by William Dominik, that Ara Maxima was a very ancient site of worship of Hercules in the forum Boarium and that Hercules who as founder of Gades in Spain under the Phoenician name Melquart had become part of the pantheon of Roman protector gods. Hercules was sent on his labor to retrieve, i.e. raid and steal, the cattle of Geryon, the ancient oil from the other end of the world. On his trip back from the cattle raid, Hercules managed to participate in Roman prehistory becoming the model for Romulus and many other heroic figures in Roman lore and history (Dominik 405).

“Geryon - goodnight argent - In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept”
goodnight-argent.weebly.com

Returning to our narrative of the ancient and the modern, as Miles claims, Hannibal aware of the need to win the propaganda war, and understanding the universal appeal of Hercules in Greek, Roman and Phoenician culture and in that of many peoples across the Mediterranean world, decided to appropriate the symbol of Heracles for his own and had a Greek historian in his train write to this purpose:

“Silenus’s portrayal of Heracles-Melqart as Hannibal’s divine companion was thus designed to send out a message to the western Greeks that it was the Carthaginian commander who represented their last opportunity to restore their diminished freedoms [vs a vie the Romans]” (Miles 247-248).

“Limoges enamel depicting Hercules carrying the two columns, by Couly Nouailher, mid-16th century (Walters Art Museum). The columns of the Melqart temple at Tyre were also of religious significance” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillars_of_Hercules)

Coins were struck of the young Hannibal in Nova Carthago, the headquarters of the Barcid dominated colony in Spain as he aspired to the role of a new Hercules Melquart. This coin with the image of the war elephant on the back is, as Miles indicates, associated the Barcid family, as well as being a symbol of continuity with the rule of his predecessors in Spain (Miles 226-227).

“Hannibal AR Tridrachm. 221-218 BC, Carthago Nova, Spain, Laureate bust of young Melqarth-Hercules left, heavy knotted club behind neck / Elephant walking” below (Wildwinds.com).

Just as Vergil was attempting to create a mythos to justify the new imperial project of his dominating friend Octavian, in the modern world the USA must do the same. The need to promote the heroic value of the invader as the legitimate force for liberation can be seen again in the modern Middle East as the Obama administration struggles to come up with a narrative that will be convincing to the young fighters in Syria and Iraq whom the US hopes to use as proxies in the war against ISIS. There have been videos made from ISIS originals highlighting the horror of the ISIS practices intended to deter potential recruits and to persuade fighters to join or at least not leave the so called moderate Islamic groups in Syria in particular.


Youtube.
State Department video battling ISIS propaganda.

The need to battle ISIS propaganda and to win over the allegiance of the people will be predicated, as with Hannibal, upon the victory of the American backed forces. There is nothing like success to gain recruits. ISIS with its string of successes rapidly gained backing. Hannibal gained early support from the Gauls of Cis-Alpine Gaul with early victories over the initial Roman forces at Trebia. A result of which wavering Gauls became more pliant supporters. Later victories including the massacre at Cannae led to Capua giving support to Hannibal, although limited, not to include a troop levy which may seem somewhat familiar to Kerry as he attempts to hammer together an alliance against ISIS. Southern Greek cities that did go over to Hannibal soon regretted the choice as Rome recaptured them one by one. As the Arab countries now must weigh the long term consequences of supporting the US. Turkey, with a border directly adjacent to ISIS controlled territory and 49 diplomats in ISIS custody, did not even sign onto the statement Kerry hammered together.

John Kerry, wearing suit, speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, right, at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Thursday. Reuters

As the Wall Street Journal article “Allies Pledge to Help U.S. Fight Islamic State Extent of Cooperation in Military Operations Still Unclear” by Maria Abi-Habib and Jay Solomon from 9/11/14 indicates, the alliance has very limited and conditional support. Germany has said it would not join air strikes. Russia concerned about the legality of US air strikes over Syria without Syrian government approval would create an barrier to UN support unless the US is willing to ally itself with the Assad regime, something the US claims to be loathe to do. Yet the US has no problem allowing Iranian troops on the ground in Iraq and PPK fighters, on the US terrorist list to work with the US in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Strange times indeed, Hannibal would be a worthy adviser as Obama wades back into these perilous waters.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/kerry-holds-talks-in-saudi-arabia-on-anti-islamic-state-campaign-1410445577


“The painting Hercules Firing Arrows at His Children, by Italian artist Antonio Canova was painted in 1799 using oil on paper and glued to canvas. It is 42 X 66 cm. The painting features the infamous madness of Hercules. After being driven mad by the goddess Hera and by drink, he murders his whole family in blind furry. When finally sober, Hercules is surprised and heartbroken by his actions. He agrees to twelve labors in order to partially atone for his sins” Phin Upham http://phinupham.net/hercules-firing-arrows-at-his-children/

Where is the modern Hercules? Is there a universal figure like Hercules? It can’t be Jesus, Jews don’t recognize him and Muslims give little significance the the figure. It can’t be Mohammed for the same reasons. Who is it, we have to go back to Abraham and Issac. Who is the good servant of god? This is a myth that is concurrent with that of Melquart-Hercules. But this is not a self evident narrative in the modern rhetoric. What is, is the question asked of Abraham. What are you willing to do to impose the will of your god? Hercules, was asking a different question, what do I have to do to get these gods off my back? What unifies them is the fact that they both are engaged as intermediaries between the helpless humanity and the gods/fates/demonic forces. Thus the rhetoric reflects a justification of the position vs a vie these powerful cosmic forces and much effort goes into the justification of these efforts. How strange, how typically human and how sad that the dilemma of both Hercules and Abraham still exist today.

“Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Islamic version) on a Haft Tanan museum wall in Shiraz”
Evgenia Kononova (Wikicommons)

The gods make Hercules crazy, a very modern figure, could be a warrior suffering from PTSD. Abraham is tempted to craziness by the Abrahamic god and then is stopped by his better angels. The Romans and Carthaginians fought until one was destroyed utterly. In the modern ethos there is the opportunity to arrest the path to war. Are our better angels going to stop us from war madness?

Selected Works Cited.

Dominik, William J. “Hercules in Roman Religion.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. Google Scholar. 404-406. Web. 9/14/14.

Hesiod, Theogony. The Works of Hesiod.trans. Richard Latimore. Ann Arbor: U of Mich. P. 1959. Print.

Miles, Richard. Carthage Must Be Destroyed. New York: Viking Penguin. 2011. Print.

Vergil, Aeneid. Perseus Digital Library. U. of Chicago. Web. 9/14/14.

Asian-Mexican Breakfast Review

Saturday, September 6th, 2014


Wikimedia.org

Prickly Pear which is also known as Cactus Pear or Opuntia has a number of health benefits.

Today I woke up, read some Bio-geography, and then noticed I was dizzy. That is usually a sign of low blood sugar and sure enough mine was down to 52. Normal is 80-120, 200 means take insulin. I took a little glucose tablet and decided to make something to eat instead of taking a shower, my normal morning routine.
\

Hometestingblog.testcountry.com

Testing blood sugar levels

Still a little dazed, I rummaged in the fridge, pulled out some cactus leaf, cactus pear, Italian squash, chayote squash and began chopping and pealing. I turned the gas on the cast Iron pan and the tea kettle, rinsed some chana dal, heated a pot of water and started simmering the dal. I spiced it with the rest of the basil leaves from my wilted plant that I got at Trader Joe’s. I also added a good shake of turmeric, a lot more nutmeg than I planned and some asafoetida. This was an unusual mixture for me to use, a rather radical departure but I was in a daze as I said.


Wikimedia.org

Asafoetida plant

I then took some left over soup from the fridge, and threw that in with the veges, this had a paste like consistency due to my habit of constantly adding ingredients. It was based on an organic mushroom soup concentrate, Pacific brand, that I found in the discount bin at Ralph’s. The soup had been a mix of the base with organic carrots, organic celery, a gala apple, a couple of turkey sausages, a tomatillo, a couple of jalapeno’s, a little chopped yellow onion and a couple of pieces of garlic all chopped up together. This had already been on the stove twice and was about a week old, well seasoned.

Then I threw in a couple of strips of bacon, usually I get turkey bacon, but in this case I found some pork bacon that was on sale.
I used to get soy bacon but that got to be too expensive, I switched to turkey bacon, but that has gone up, so now I just look for what is on sale and isn’t loaded with sodium.

After that came a chopped up tomatillo, some yellow onion and 3 or 4 pieces of garlic chopped up. I threw in a hand full of fresh rosemary spears and let it all simmer some more, all together over half an hour of cooking time.

While this was on low burner, I noticed some fruit flies hanging around a honey dew melon I had bought a month ago that never really ripened. I have noticed lately that there is a lot of fruit that is like this. It is picked early, and often instead of ripening it simply sits and then goes bad. This honeydew had a corner that had become moldy. So I cut it off, scraped out the seeds. and chopped up the rest of the insides but kept the outer casing to form a gourd. I this left the chopped up bits of melon, added the contents of one of those Paige Yogurt cups, the kind with the fruit on the side. I poured in the yogurt sans the cherry fruit concentrate, added a healthy amount of sage, really poured it in, added a little clove powder, and a generous couple of drops of vanilla concentrate. On top of this I placed a dozen or so green organic table grapes, a little salsa and a spoon of honey then added a shake of hot sauce and it was done.

While all this was going on I poured the hot water from the tea pot into a single serving melitta style filter filled with Don Francisco’s fine grind expresso, which sat on my coffee cup in which I had placed a triangle of Ibarra Mexican style chocolate and the cherry jam from the yogurt container. Hand poured style of making coffee demands a fine grind that slows down the water percolation. If you use a regular grind, the water pours through and the coffee is weak, you have to pour it through the filter a couple of times and never tastes right. I always choose a fine grind and a bold or strong coffee to get maximum flavor.


Ranchionlinestore.com

Chana Dal

I replaced the water in the simmering chana dal as there was a lot of white foam. After that the liquid was clear. I should have soaked the dal in cold water for a while before cooking and as it was it was not done in time for breakfast, no matter, I will have it later with another couple of meals. As a habit I cook beans and broil potatoes on the weekend so that I will have them during the week. I also tend to make way more than I can eat on the weekends and save left overs for my week night meals. After a long day of work and school, I rarely have the energy to cook on weekday evenings.

The food on the frying pan was done so I threw in some olive oil, added a couple eggs, and threw a slice of Vogel Mixed Grain bread in the toaster. The bread had come out of the freezer, I buy it from the discount section at Ralph’s where the normally expensive loafs can be bought for a dollar or so. I freeze it because I don’t eat bread often, usually I have tortillas with my meals.

With every thing done I slices up a key lime, squeezed it on top of the fruit gourd, made a plate with the food from the frying pan, slicing the piece of toast in half after spreading some Philadelphia cream cheese with jalapeno on it, then placed the over medium eggs on the toast, added a squeeze of lime, some hot sauce, black pepper and a dash of sea salt on the eggs and the veges on the side of the dish, and I was ready to chow down.

The flavor was intense, acidic and a little hot, from the leftover soup most likely. It has a complexity and was balanced between soft and hard elements.Usually I add potato to cool out the flavor, or have some beans and a grain like rice, but in this case it was the veges that stood alone and once my mental expectations had adjusted to the flavor messages from my taste buds, I enjoyed the dish. It was not too dry or wet, hard or soft, in fact it was tasty. I had no more cilantro so that staple was missing from my plate. The egg on toast was a little more generic than I had expected, when I added some of the bacon it became more flavorful.


media4.onsugar.com

Honeydew melon

As for my gourd of fruit and liquified yogurt, it was very tangy. The clove, sage and vanilla flavor really stood out front and center. The yogurt made it taste like one of those savory Indian yogurt dishes. Most of the fruit sweetness came from the grapes as the honeydew was rather bland and woody, tasting more like chayote than honeydew. But it was a pleasant spiciness, not overwhelming. I deliberately did not add too much honey as I did not want the sweetness to drown out the spiciness. The sage added a nice savory flavor that made the whole dish an exotic and interesting combination for the palate.


smartkichen.com

Chayote squash

Some source info. Since I live in Southern California, I am blessed with access to abundant fresh food, and unlike Florida, the state doesn’t take the hell out of groceries. Chayote, tomatillo, cactus leaf and cactus pear can all be got cheap from Mexican markets, or the discount stores like Food 4 Less. Ralph’s has the organic produce, day old stuff, and especially day old organic meats, I always look for deals on that sort of stuff there. Indian food like asafoetida and dal can be found at some regular markets but most likely you will have to go to an Asian or Indian market. I found the chana dal on the street outside of a church where some kind soul left a bag full of Indian and Middle Eastern grains and legumes. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I grabbed some of the items. My daily walks often are productive like that.

Gaza, US Middle East Bungling, Anti-Semitism, Plautus, & Ancient Usury

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

The yellow badge Jews were forced to wear can be seen in this marginal illustration from an English manuscript.

BritLibCottonNeroDiiFol183vPersecutedJews

Summer is almost over as we enter the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the USA. May Day, the world wide labor struggle holiday, which started in honor of American Anarchists in Chicago, is alienated from its radical history here. But the people have struggled to have their voices heard despite the constant media barrage to discourage action and to induce a sense of fear and helplessness.

We can see how people the world over took to the streets when Israel attacked Gaza, especially in Europe, not so strangely the dictatorships in the Arab world remained largely silent, not wanting to encourage more signs of resistance like the Arab Spring. The USA, as leader of the cabal of elite rulers around the world, has rocked the boat when Obama made his seemingly foolish speech in Cairo when he was first elected. It must be attributed to his relative political naïveté in international affairs. He perhaps wanted to distinguish himself from Bush’s administration with its heavy handed interventionist policies. The elites in Saudi Arabia never forgave him for letting Mubarak go. They insisted on returning the military to power and now are busily working with proxies such as the U.A.E. to destroy the independent resistance in Libya and did their best to turn Syria into a quagmire.

The Obama administration, with their desire to turn focus to deal with a rising China, and create an East Asian NATO, has now found itself being out-foxed by the combined efforts of Iran, Russia and China. But I digress into speculation on politics based on my own reading and experience in various domestic anti-imperialist political campaigns.

Little Gaza is a lynchpin irritant; it is the sore that keeps the Islamic world rallying against the presence of Israel. It is such a blatant injustice, that when Islamic regimes give silent aid to Israel, they fuel the forces of Islamic radicalism. It was the Palestinian question and the placement of US bases in Saudi Arabia allowed Osama Bin Laden to inspire so many young Saudi’s and others to such an implacable resistance to the US machinations leading to 9/11.

What to do about Israel? I can admire the Jewish people and their resilience in the face of prejudice, especially on the part of Christians that goes back to at least medieval times. The Greek-Jewish hostility dating back to the Greek Selucid occupation of the Jewish homeland in the Hellenistic period, extended into the Roman times. Witness the riots in Roman occupied Alexandria between Greeks and Jews and the records of delegations to Rome during the time of Caligula, to resolve these conflicts in Philo. The degeneration of relations between Rome and the Jews from the days when Herod was a welcome celebrity in Rome, to the time of the destruction of the second temple by Vespasian and Titus, a subject that I would like to dig into sometime because it would be interesting to see how Jews became Shylocks in the western tradition and a persecuted minority.
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-12-63.html
I am providing a link to a fairly good article from Wikipedia on the subject of the early split between Judaism and Christianity, which resulted in official oppression of Jews once the Christians became part of the government after Constantine. The earlier Roman oppression of the Jews had more to do with Roman practice against rebels than any specific anti-Semitism. Later the attitude of Hadrian, whose Hellenophile enthusiasm, may have influenced his repression of the Jews and renaming Jerusalem as pagan Aelia Capitolina. What has the Greek and Jewish conflict played in the emergence of anti-Semitism is a subject I intend to write about more. As it is I am diverging again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_of_early_Christianity_and_Judaism

The Jewish people deserve to feel safe in their place in the world. Yet they must not do so by developing their own version of South African Apartheid on a much smaller and more intensive scale.

This entire discourse was inspired by my reading of Plautus’s play The Mostellaria, reading his rants against moneylenders. His language seems right out of the Biblical Jesus’s excoriation of the money changers. It got me thinking about when were Jews first associated with the reviled loan sharks. Plautus has his hero, the mischievous slave Tranio, say in an aside to the audience “By Pollux, you won’t find a fouler class of/men/Or men less lawful than the moneylending breed!” (Plautus 657-659). He spends a goodly section of the play railing against loans at interest and one gets the impression that this may have been a relatively recent development in Roman culture. Banking with the concept of interest had been criticized by Aristotle and Roman law limited interest to 8 1/3%. Yet in the play the money lender is asking for 10%.
http://americansforfairnessinlending.wordpress.com/the-history-of-usury/

Also in the war with the Carthaginians, the second Punic war, which would have been going on during much of Plautus’s adulthood, the Roman Republic took out many loans and taxed women for their jewel and gold inherited from dead spouses called the Oppian Laws. After the war in 195 BC when the war was long over, the Oppian law was still in effect and the women protested when the Senate was voting on repeal and the tribunes were about to veto repeal. This occurred a decade or so before Plautus died and presumably when he was a well-known playwright.
http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/lesson10.html
So I was thinking about how usury was unpopular among the aristocracy of the day. There had been a crisis in Athens earlier when many farmers had become enslaved for non-payment of debt. Solon famously did much to eliminate that debt and legislated against it. The Greeks famously used their temples as banks. Pawnbrokers and money changing are considered to be Greek innovations. Perhaps the outrage of Jesus was outrage at the Hellenistic practice in the Jewish temple. This would give a nationalist twist to his opposition, or who ever made up the story. The transformation of the payment in interest in grain, where agricultural products naturally created more abundance, as opposed to the innovation of charging interest on money and metals which had no natural increase which caused serious problems in ancient society. But how the Jews, became associated with moneylending had much to do with medieval taxation and land ownership restrictions on Jews and their lack of a natural land base after the diaspora. I am again getting beyond my area of even limited expertise, so I am going to leave it at that.
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history/Ancient_and_Medieval_History/632-1650/Christendom/Commerce/Moneylending.shtml
I am leaving this off with more questions than answers. I am going to have to read more on the original Greek and Jewish interaction. Perhaps in my Pagan Culture class I will write a paper on this and post it. Meanwhile it is now August 31st and I have not even touched on the issues of migration and police shootings of minorities. I will write more at a later time. Meantime I would love some commentary and addition of some factual information.
Some good sources that I happen to have in my personal library and have read over the years:

Andreau, Jean. Banking and Business in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press. 1999. Print.
Finnley, M. I. The Ancient Economy. Berkeley: U. of CA. Press. 1999. Print.
Lee, A. D. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity. London: Routledge. 2000. Print.
Plautus, Titus Maccius. Four Comedies. Trans. Erich Segal. Oxford: Oxford U. Press. 1996. Print.
Tcherikover, Victor. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. New York: Atheneum. 1979. Print.

Police Miltarization, Michael Brown Shooting, Egyptian Massacre Anniversary

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

From Economist editorial “Cops or Soldiers? America’s Police Have Become Too Militarized”
Posted by Predictable-History at 22.3.14

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, has resulted in several days of tension between the local almost all white police force and the majority black community. Police refusal to name the shooter, and confrontational style of handling protesters with a massive show of military like force, is not helping. Apparently participating in a government program to donate surplus Iraq and Afghanistan military equipment to American police forces, has resulted in a police force that looks and acts more like an occupying army that those sworn to serve and protect. What exactly are they protecting in Ferguson, other than themselves?

‘Don’t shoot us,’ the crowd cries at police in Ferguson, Mo., Saturday after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by an officer. - David Carson/MCT www.nydailynews.com

Michael Brown, according to the interview with his family I heard on Democracy Now, was preparing to enroll in college this fall. His father said he was someone who brought people together. He used humor to diffuse situations at home. According to the police story Michael was involved in an altercation in which he allegedly attempted to take a gun from a cop. According to an eye witness Michael was running away from the police, when he was shot, turned, raised his hands to surrender, and was shot repeatedly by the officer. Another eyewitness collaborated that story according to the Democracy Now piece. NPR reports that the refusal to turn over the name of the officer is fueling the hostility and suspicion of the police in the community. The story stated that many in the community already know who the officer is and that he has a reputation for hassling young black men.

Democracy Now story about Michael Brown murder, and interviews with citizens of Ferguson.

The link between state violence and the blueprints laid out decades ago by the Trilaterals in the 1970’s for restricting Democracy has been discussed in my previous blog posting. The issue of continued violence against minorities, shooting black people with seeming impunity and locking up poor Latin people simply seeking a refuge from violence in their own countries has become more and more important. The world of Capitalism is literally exploding and as social media increasingly exposes the state, it becomes more and more obvious that radical solutions are required. Radical in the sense that the powers that be may be discomfited by the pressure from the popular masses.

Michael Brown’s father shortly after the shooting.

From Suman Varandani for International Business Times www.ibtimes.com

It is incumbent upon us as citizens, not only of the USA, but of the world, to act to bring about peace and that can only come about with justice. Justice is not going to happen as long as increasing social-economic inequity drives people to despair. The militarization of society is an attempt to tamp down the desires of people for a better life.

The piece below is from a recent Newsweek article on the source of the recent military look of the police.

“How America’s Police Became an Army: The 1033 Program”
By Taylor Wofford
Filed: 8/13/14 at 10:47 PM | Updated: 8/14/14 at 1:21 PM

FergusonCops
Riot police clear a street with smoke bombs while clashing with demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

As many have noted, Ferguson, Missouri, currently looks like a war zone. And its police—kitted out with Marine-issue camouflage and military-grade body armor, toting short-barreled assault rifles, and rolling around in armored vehicles—are indistinguishable from soldiers.

America has been quietly arming its police for battle since the early 1990s.

Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.

This whole War on Terror thing, after the War on Drugs, all a result of the military industrial complex looking for more profit centers in which to justify spending our tax dollars, has simply gone too far. Ferguson perhaps will cause Americans to wake up to what has happened to our country. It has become a police state in which minorities are treated like Palestinians are in Gaza, as target practice by the authorities.

President Obama has finally been drawn into the fray to make comments about the situation, and Attorney General Holder has sent Civil Rights lawyers and is doing a side by side investigation of the shooting along with the local authorities.

This is from the transcript of Obama’s comments on Ferguson in the Washington Post.

Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority. I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcript-president-obamas-remarks-on-unrest-in-ferguson-mo-and-iraq/2014/08/14/c8ce971e-23c7-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

His comments are not strong enough and he spends too much time defending the local authorities in his brief commentary. Although I am glad that the Attorney General is getting involved it has taken almost a week of protests and violent confrontations to get the governments attention. Sometimes you have to hit the jackass over the head to get a response.

Protesters in Ferguson, MO.
www.blenderss.com

The poster below is based on the Wobblies old statement “Direct Action Gets the Goods” which was the preferred method of labor organizing a century ago when to be a Labor organizer meant taking your life in your hands. Direct action, done by an aroused population is a powerful means of getting a redress of grievances, especially in a liberal democratic state like the USA.


poasterchild.deviantart.com

Otherwise you end up with a world looking like this:


www.reddit.com
Ferguson, Missouri right now : pics

Or even worse like the poor people in Egypt who are now mourning their own version of Tiananmen square, on the one year anniversary. August 14, 2013 saw the most ruthless slaughter of protesters in modern history.

The dead bodies of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi lie in a room in a field hospital at the Rabaa Adawiya mosque, where they were camping, in Cairo, Aug. 14, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/08/egypt-muslim-brotherhood-massacre-sisi.html#ixzz3ARLsNQ4A

The Human Rights Watch Report on the Massacre is Damning. This is from the Guardian.

Egypt massacre was premeditated, says Human Rights Watch
Rabaa killing of 817 people was a planned Tiananmen-Square-style attack on largely unarmed protesters, report argues

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 August 2014 04.01 EDT

Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during last August’s Rabaa massacre, in a premeditated attack equal to or worse than China’s Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has argued in a report.

The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt’s police and army “systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds” in actions that “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”.

This edition of Democracy Now focuses on the Massacre in Egypt and has an interview with Kenneth Roth, president of Human Rights Watch.

From Ferguson to Cairo, military responses to the concerns of humanity, shows more and more clearly how the elites ruing the world only care about maintaining control and power.

Long Beach Walk, Protest Israel Assault on Gaza, ERT TV-Greece

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Alex’s Bar 2913 East Anaheim Street, Long Beach, CA 90804
Longbeachhappyhour.com

This evening I took a stroll through my town, walking across the mid section of Long Beach down Anaheim Street mostly through Cambodia Town. I was struck by the amount of bars on the windows of shops and the empty buildings and lots in my neighborhood. This is Saturday evening and one would expect people to be geared up for celebrations. Mostly I noticed teenager and twenty something youths hanging around empty lots and bus stops, not looking festive, but more aimless, like they were just looking for something to happen. Most of the businesses were closed, except half a dozen liquor stores, a couple of churches, one with a preacher rapping in amplified Spanish and another with a pretty kick ass band playing rousing Spanish Christan Rock, otherwise only bars getting ready for the night crowds, some cops raiding a local residential hotel, and a drunk who bummed my bus change off me. I didn’t mind, I was walking anyway. There are a couple decent clubs in the area for neo-punk/goth fans. I sometimes listen as I go for my nightly strolls. But all day I have had a feeling of foreboding, something about the events around the world has me feeling that things could get crazy, even here in slumbering America.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators holding banners and chanting anti-Israeli slogans walk in Paris, Sunday, July 13, 2014
www.theblaze.com

It could have been me, I have been pondering the explosive world political scene as population pressure on resources is reflected in increased conflict over territory. Ethnic minorities flame up in arms as political solutions, democratic or otherwise increasingly fail to provide satisfactory living environments across much of the planet. Neo-liberals from the affluent post colonial nations try to impose a form of exploitative capitalism upon the struggling nations of the world, encouraging governments and elites to forget social obligations and traditional non-economic relationships, by presenting economic exploitation as the only efficient and inevitable model for the future. This naturally will draw resistance from populations not totally devastated and demoralized.

Protesters run by a fire barricade near the aerial metro station of Barbes-Rochechouart, in Paris, on July 19, 2014. Photo by AFP.

It is one reason that I see the IS as becoming something of a magnet for the disaffected youth of the world who want to do something to fight back against the megamachine of capitalist and western domination. Arabic youth in Europe who feel the cold shoulder of racist, nativist reaction through out the continent are increasingly finding the path to Syria and Iraq as a feasible prospect. The French government’s ban on protests against Israel are not helping. Feeling left out, felling as if they have to conform to western values, which increasingly means chasing the chimera of jobs through education in some sort of version of survival of the fittest now being played out on the former islands of enlightenment, the universities. But in reality as more people gain these degrees they simply become devalued, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee anything much more than a supervisory position at a Walmart or a fast food chain, the competition for real and not McJobs has just had the ante upped, masters degrees or better now for those good jobs are required. If one is fortunate enough to live in a country with jobs then the debt load for an education can be dream crushing.

New Yorkers protesting unemployment. (file photo). Tue Mar 6, 2012 6:41PM
presstv.ir

I was wandering around the internet this morning, watched a bit of France24, turned to RT coverage of the downed plane site in the Ukraine where they were interviewing locals, watched the Obama take on that bombing on the Website of the Presidents press office, turned to Cuban, Afghan, Polish and eventually Greek TV on the internet. When I got to the Greek channel run by former employees of the now unfunded Greek Public Television, I saw the first hopeful thing I had seen in a while on the airwaves. The channel was positively chock full of creative experimental documentaries and art pieces, cutting edge bands playing interesting mixes of heavy metal and classical music, I could feel the palpable idealistic release of energy as a community of activist programers, freed from constraints to toe some government line, were pouring out their hearts in incisive and radical programing. It was Democracy Now on hyperdrive, Or maybe like what TV would be like if Anarchist college professors and students ran the station. Perhaps they do, or at least a really liberated socialist community of programmers are in charge over there. ERT is the network, EPT Live, one of the stations in the network is showing a French language, Russian subtitled antiwar documentary of some film from the twentieth century. Its about “Basil Zaharoff (born Basileios Zacharias Zacharoff, Greek: Βασίλειος Zαχαρίας Ζαχάρωφ; October 6, 1849 – November 27, 1936) was a Greek-born arms dealer, industrialist and philanthropist.
One of the richest men in the world during his lifetime, Zaharoff was variously described including “merchant of death” and “mystery man of Europe”” (Basil Zaharoff, Wikipedia)

No ordinary Orient Express passenger, Basil Zaharoff – later Sir Basil – was an arms dealer, financier and businessman
www.orient-express.eu

Check out the channel. It is a breathe of fresh air.

Closed Greek Public TV station ERT broadcasting under workers’ occupation via Spanish Public TV. Posted on June 11, 2013 by critical media review

http://greekreporter.com/watch-ert-live/

Now there is footage of street protests in Greece, chanting “the people united will never be defeated” in Greek. My kind of TV, a Greek satirical song based on the tune “Jingle Bells.” how cool is that?

Teachers chant slogans during a protest at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece,18/09/2013
http://www.independent.ie

Protests in Paris, that center of culture and civilization, are growing as the country fails to integrate children of immigrants. Something that has been exacerbated by the economic crisis which still has youth unemployment at 25% to 50% or more in Europe and the USA.


Recent street protests in Paris.
From a site called Paris Through German Eyes (mostly German photos of Paris in WW2).

Tomorrow, Sunday July 20, 2014 I will probably join the protests, at the Federal Building on Wiltshire in LA, against the Israeli assault on Gaza. It is not much but it is something. Just doing nothing would be criminal.

Israeli airstrikes killed five Palestinians in Gaza overnight Monday, with at least 192 killed and 1,400 injured as Israel’s assault enters its eighth day. July 2014.
shahidblog.com

Shakespeare’s Pyramus and Thisbe: The “Rude Mechanicals”

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Pyramus and Thisbe, House of Loreius Tiburtinus, Pompeii.
File:Pyramus and Thisbe Pompeii.jpg wiki commons.

Flute and the Rude Mechanicals of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, “Pyramus and Thisbe – one of the pair the most beautiful of youths; the other most esteemed of those girls whom the Orient held – lived in houses side by side” (Ovid, 4.55-66). Thisbe, esteemed girl, is not original to Shakespeare, although his treatment of her, and Pyramus is, as the play within a play is presented seriously by the “Hard-handed men…Which never labored with their minds” (MSD 5.1.72-73), who are “translated” as Quince says. They have become more, elevated by this performance for they “have now toiled their unbreathed memories / With this same play against your nuptial” (5.1.74-75) as Egeus states. Each of these men, is transformed, in this case “Francis Flute, a bellows mender” (MSD “The persons of the play”) has become Thisbe, by the magic of the art of the theatre, perhaps not perfectly but enough so that Theseus says “If we imagine no worse of them than they of they them- / selves, they may pass for excellent men” (MSD 5.1.211-212), and later after her soliloquy Theseus magnanimously calls it a “fine tragedy” (5.1.344), perhaps sarcastically, but still he gives the players a leave, rather than the noose. After all it was he who chose their work and he and his companions found it helped “wear away this long age of three hours” (5.1.33).

Thisbe: “Come, blade my breast imbrue.” (MND 5.1.331)
From: Women With Swords in Art By Lili Loofbourow| October 3, 2011
Pyramus-and-Thisbe-by-Niklaus-Deutsch.jpg

Flute, whose name is perhaps a pun on the sound made by bellows as they are squeezed when not mended, has become the female lead. A bellows is from Old English meaning “blast-bag, blowing-bag” according to OED etymology and it has the additional meaning to “that which blows up or fans the fire of passion, discord, etc.” and also applies to the lungs, also is a contrivance for providing air for a musical instrument (bellows, n). “We heard a hollow burst of bellowing Like Buls, or rather Lyons.” (Tempest (1623) ii. i. 316 cited in “bellowing, n”). Thus we find that Flute could be a mender of the musical instruments required in a church as this source in the OED says “1566 Churchwardens’ Accts. St. Dunstan’s, Canterb., ‘One payer of orgens lackeng iij pypes, also thear lacketh the pesys of led belongen to the belowes.’” (bellows, n). One would think that a bellows mender, which the OED cites A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the original source of the term, would be a person of some importance in the community of artisans. Not a mere bellows mender, but a craftsman whose job was to make the instruments sing and not wheeze. Whether this is a feminine process is another matter, perhaps as the blowing is masculine then the mending of the blower, would be by implication feminine, thus Shakespeare has named Flute as our Thisbe at least in this speculation for as Harold Bloom states “the ‘mechanicals’ are English rustic artisans – the sublime Bottom, Peter Quince, Flute, Snout, Snug, and Starveling – and so come out of Shakespeare’s own countryside, where he grew up” (Bloom 149).

“Woodcut illustration (leaf [c]5v, f. [xv]) of Pyramus and Thisbe, hand-colored in red, green, yellow and black, from an incunable German translation by Heinrich Steinhöwel of Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris, printed by Johannes Zainer at Ulm ca. 1474″
from: Penn Provenance Project.

These were the men of the theater, as David Kathman in his article “Grocers, Goldsmiths, and Drapers: Freemen and Apprentices in the Elizabethan Theater” shows with masterful research, that there were many tradesmen in the theater, in fact “[t]he role of guilds and livery companies in the development of medieval English drama has long been recognized, as has their key role in the production of London Midsummer shows and Lord Mayor’s pageants” (Kathman 1). He goes on to describe the importance of the apprentices freed from their trades to perform as actors and their importance to the London theater (2). This is significant as the inclusion of the “rough mechanicals” would have been thus traditional for a Midsummer show and as the Dream is a Midsummer show, there would be reason to include a performance by the men of the guilds or trade. Perusing the list of actors who were tradesmen in Kathman, there are no bellows menders listed (47-49), so an easy correlation between Flute and a particular player remains elusive. But the fact that some fifty persons individual identities from the sixteenth and seventeenth century English theater have been identified, is significant in itself.

Wall scene.
“[Shakespeare] cast the diminutive Nashe – who famously could not grow a beard - as Francis Flute the bellows-mender, forced to play Thisbe through his lack of facial hair…
From The Shakespeare Code blog site.

Greenblatt says in his Will in the World, “[e]ven as he called attention to the distance between himself and the rustic performers [in the Pyramus and Thisbe sequence], then Shakespeare doubled back and signaled a current of sympathy and solidarity… borrowing from the old morality plays and folk culture…he understood… that he owed a debt. The professions he assigns the Athenian artisans were not chosen at random - Shakespeare’s London theater company depended on joiners and weavers, carpenters and tailors…” (Greenblatt, 52). This world of the make believe high society, in the Dream, mirrors that of the society to which Shakespeare aspired and perhaps at this stage of his life, in the mid 1590’s, had gained some position, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been considered to be written for a wedding of the upper classes at which Queen Elisabeth may have attended (47). Yet Shakespeare, at least in this play, does not forget the common people, and the tradesmen who are the foundation upon which the theater is built as Kathman states “London livery companies played a crucial role in the economics of the professional theater” (Kathman 2), providing talented your apprentices, such as Flute, to play Thisbe.

“Edward Kynaston, one of the last boy players (1889 engraving of a contemporary portrait)”
Wikipedia

A will o’ the wisp such as Thisbe representing tragic love, in the hands of coarse amateurs would have been an object of mockery, and among the nobility portrayed in the play she is, but not so much, for as Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare “conferred an odd, unexpected dignity upon Bottom and his fellows, a dignity that contrasts favorably with the sardonic rudeness of the aristocratic spectators” (Greenblatt 52). The bard seems to have been allowing a certain grace to Thisbe’s plaintive cry “Lovers make moan” (MSD 5.1.321), even as he follows with an absurdity “His eyes were green as leaks” (5.1.322), but she recovers with a classical reference, “O sisters three” (5.1.223) and then allows another absurd reference to the common, “With hands pale as milk”(5.1.224). The common substances of daily life leaks, and milk, mixed with the references to the classical fates, and a call to the universal moaning of all lovers who have lost loved ones, surely would have touched upon things that were meaningful to all the audience, and elicited sympathetic attention as well as the critical, for even Theseus could not do more than complain of the author, and even then compliments in a backhanded way, “if he that writ it had played Pyramus / and hanged himself in Thisbe’s garter, it would have been a / fine tragedy” (5.1.342-344).

“Bankers of York, from the Ordinances of their Guild, 1595-96.”
internetshakespeare.uvic.ca

Thus it is that I agree with J. P. Conlan in the argument he makes “showing that Elizabethan comedies written for the court could and did advise on policy” (Conlan 118). But short of an epic study of Shakespeare’s Ovid, the proletarian feminism implicit in Flute’s Thisbe and its revolutionary implications, something that deserves a much longer presentation, this will conclude noting that Shakespearean stage utilized and depended upon the apprentices that came from among the artisan classes and the guilds. These talented youths fed the theater with its female roles as Kathman documents so meticulously naming among many others “William Trigge, bound on 20 December 1625 for twelve years; … Trigge was one of the leading actors of female roles for the King’s Men in the late 1620’s, playing at least five female roles between 1626 and 1632” (Kathman 10). Kathman documents his legal petitions to be released from apprenticeship from William Heminges son John “pur apprendre larte que dite John hennings adonc visat … l’arte d’ une Stageplayer” (11). Perhaps Flute was one of these apprentices, learning his skill as an actor, and that Shakespeare was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream presenting his acting family in all its levels of skill to the court to appreciate the effort that went into making the rude artisans into accomplished artists and thus recommending an indulgence toward his trade. Thus making the sows ear of Flute into “one of the most esteemed girls of the orient” by the metamorphosis made possible by the theatrical artistry of himself, hanged as he was on Thisbe’s garter. Harold Bloom says “It is a curious link between The Tempest, Love’s Labor’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream that these are the three plays, out of thirty nine, where Shakespeare does not follow a primary source” (Bloom 149). The primary source in this case was the world in which he found himself, and his actors in the play within a play were his fellows, both literally and literately.

Map Created by Ralph Agas (c.1570-1605)
From shakespearesengland.co.uk

Works Cited
“bellowing, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.
“bellows, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2014. Web. 16 June 2014.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books. 1998. Print.
Conlan, J. P. “The Fey Beauty Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Shakespearean Comedy In Its Courtly Context.” Shakespeare Studies 32.(2004): 118-172. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 June 2014.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2004. Print.
Kathman, David. “Grocers, Goldsmiths, and Drapers: Freemen and Apprentices in the Elizabethan Theater.” Shakespeare Quarterly. 55.1 (Spring, 2004). 1-49. Jstor.org. Web. 22 June 2014.
Ovid, “Pyramus and Thisbe.” Metamorphosis.4.55-66. CSULBBeachboard. Web. 14 June 2014.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Norton Shakespeare Based on the Oxford Edition Second Edition: With an Essay on the Shakespearean stage by Andrew Gurr. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2008. 849-896. Print.


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