Archive for September, 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.

Labor Day Port Truckers Organizing Meeting.

Monday, September 1st, 2014

(Photo)Striking port truck drivers labor action (Jabin Botsford / Los Angeles Times)

Today is still Labor Day in California. I went to a meeting at Banning Park in Wilmington down near the Port of Los Angeles. It was a group of organizers and truckeros who are attempting to organize the truckers at the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles. The meeting was mostly in Spanish so I did not catch a lot of the conversation but I got the gist of the idea being that pressure needs to be brought increasingly on the Port Authority and the individual shipping companies to allow the truckers to switch back to employees from the independent contractor status they have had since the 1990’s. The Longshoremen union the ILWU and the Teamsters have begun to take an interest but because the truckers are not legally considered to be employees they have little legal room to maneuver, or at least have used that excuse to refrain from organizing a largely Hispanic work force.

Ernie from Port of Azatlan, a representative from the ANSWER Coalition, a representative of the Block the Boat Coalition Against ZIM Ships (Israeli shipping company) and members of the IWW were there as well as a group of truckers who had participated in past actions. All told about 30 or so persons were there.

Many spoke, mostly in Spanish but what I gathered was that some of them had been involved in actions since the 1990’s or before. There are plans for an action on September 13th or there about and if you are interested in labor action this is a good one to participate in, especially now as the Palestinian support groups are now focusing on boycotting the Israeli shippers, activists are again focusing on the ports and if they don’t repeat the fiasco of the Occupy port actions of a couple of years ago, a very powerful coalition may be in the making.

Block the boat for Gaza stops Israeli Zim ship in Oakland. August 2014. By Terri Kay on August 18, 2014 from Workers World

Photo: Ingrid Martin


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