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 The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view

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nordmann
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PostSubject: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Sat 14 Nov 2015, 13:01

"Oh God, what mischiefs work the wicked ones, 
Heaping confusion on their own heads thereby!"

Once more we civilised people are invited with menaces to marvel and despair at the ability of lethal ignorance to disrupt our cool reason and persuade us to abandon our hard-earned rationality while we witness, yet again, cruel barbarity executed in the name of private gods and in pursuit of unattainable private fantasies.

The unfolding events in Paris this night, reported as disjointed snippets of confused information in an age of news reportage in which immediacy of communication undermines analysis, are new only in the specific sense of the word. This latest terrible mosaic, piece by piece, is assembled, and the more its assembly progresses the more we can be certain that the image it will construct will be as senseless and grotesque as the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that again. We who have lived long enough to regard these terrible little mosaics in their construction so many times that we now do not even count them, no longer even wait now for their completion, knowing only too well the inevitable dissatisfaction with the eventual artifice revealed in their art and the equally inevitable dissatisfaction with the futility of the actual image they contain, whatever the misguided intentions of the clumsy artists who might have composed them or their misplaced and exaggerated faith in the skill they employed to do so.
 
So familiar are we now with the arrogance of the morally bankrupt, with the lethal swagger of those whose infantility has been forced upon them by that dearth of imagination which they embrace as a grotesque virtue, so inured are we now to the wanton disdain for life exhibited by those whose own lives they themselves so fundamentally disdain, that we have grown adept at predicting their pitiful acts of destruction, just as we have become adept at visually completing their spiteful collages of death and injury even before they are finished in their construction. We know already what they signify, and it is a significance so removed from that assumed by the artist that it is worth iterating.

It is not for nothing that we draw a line between civilised and barbaric behaviour. It is not an accident that we, the world over, can distinguish between moral and immoral reason and behaviour, between that which is right and that which is so fundamentally wrong, between that which we know is good and that which we know with equal certainty is evil. These things have been learnt, not by we as individuals, but by countless generations of us as humans struggling collectively to share an existence which has always been under threat. And deep within us all we know that the biggest such threat comes not from without but from within our very selves. With this knowledge comes terrible responsibilities, ones that we face up to in a myriad ways every day of our lives. So ingrained is that sense of responsibility that we rarely even acknowledge its presence or its effect, we simply fulfil it as best we can.

To contemplate these responsibilities is terrifying in itself as the act contains within it a duty to contemplate the alternative. And so great is the fear of that alternative once contemplated that many respond by doing that most human of things - abandoning the task and retreating into the false safety of pretence, the greater the pretence the greater the false sense of security it provides. The ultimate pretence is that we do not own these responsibilities at all, that they are in the possession of metaphysical constructs we ourselves have actually devised to contain them. These constructs are assigned a quality of mystery and of universal power they do not innately possess, and those who feel comfort in that false assignment draw further comfort from the ensuing lie that therefore their own actions are equally mysteriously derived from these fantasy forces directing their thoughts and actions.

This abandonment of responsibility can never be safe, at least not in the sense of our survival and the survival within us of an honest relationship between us and our universe, our innate curiosity in which has been by far the principal motive behind anything we collectively call improvement in the general condition of our lives. 

For most of those inclined to abandon a faith in such a useful curiosity however the detriment of their act is contained and not so contagious as to cause alarm amongst the rest of us. We have learnt to accommodate wilful ignorance on the part of many, we even tolerate the inevitable harm inflicted on us by the wilfully ignorant when it occurs. But such harm is tolerable only because it too by its presence justifies our faith in advancement and goads us into pursuing that aim. Little by little, piece by piece, the human race has quietly and doggedly assembled its own mosaic - one which ultimately portrays the benefit of intellect, of reason and reasonableness, of striving to fulfil potential, of working towards a common good from which everyone benefits, and in doing so conquering along the way that greatest of threats to our being, ignorance.

For a few however who embrace such ignorance and who have abandoned their human responsibility to contribute to that great mosaic the effects of their subsequent actions are less readily contained. These people confuse others' quiet commitment to rationality with their own complacently adopted ignorance. The route, they well know from their own experience, to undermining such complacency is to generate fear, and so for these people this presents a simplistic but achievable intent, to instil as much fear as possible with the tools their ignorance allows them. Whether they style themselves as terrorists or ideologists, whether they pretend to political or religious motives, they all harbour an equal ambition - to smash that great mosaic and replace it with a grotesque copy they foolishly believe can be its equal.

But even as the latest such grotesquerie is assembled for us in these hours following the slaughter of innocents in Paris it has already revealed itself for what it ultimately is. It can never replace anything, let alone emulate the beauty or the painstaking construction of that which its creators hope to smash. It is a picture, that much is true - a crude graphic and indeed an eloquent one. But it is a depiction of the sheer futility of departure from all that is good about us by people whose poverty of reason, intellect and morality will never allow them to recognise just how crude and futile they, and all that they devise with which to portray themselves, ultimately are. 

Each futile act they perpetrate, however shocking or destructive they hope it is or even as we immediately perceive it to be, is one act further in their own elimination from the big picture, that great mosaic of human achievement and advancement to which their own contribution has always been simply to unleash their destructive frenzy on what can only ever be little more than one infinitesimal tessera of the countless already in place, but which is about as much as their ignorance allows them to contemplate and which they therefore stupidly confuse with the mosaic itself. We have nothing to fear ultimately. The tesserae will always be replaced, and each time the greater picture only benefits from the addition.

And so, as always, we simply move on and leave these impoverished minds to marvel and despair at how little they themselves understand, least of all about their contribution to their own increasing irrelevance and ultimate demise.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Sat 14 Nov 2015, 19:22

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Sun 15 Nov 2015, 12:46

nordmann wrote:
It is not for nothing that we draw a line between civilised and barbaric behaviour. It is not an accident that we, the world over, can distinguish between moral and immoral reason and behaviour, between that which is right and that which is so fundamentally wrong, between that which we know is good and that which we know with equal certainty is evil. These things have been learnt, not by we as individuals, but by countless generations of us as humans struggling collectively to share an existence which has always been under threat. And deep within us all we know that the biggest such threat comes not from without but from within our very selves. With this knowledge comes terrible responsibilities, ones that we face up to in a myriad ways every day of our lives. So ingrained is that sense of responsibility that we rarely even acknowledge its presence or its effect, we simply fulfil it as best we can.

To contemplate these responsibilities is terrifying in itself as the act contains within it a duty to contemplate the alternative. And so great is the fear of that alternative once contemplated that many respond by doing that most human of things - abandoning the task and retreating into the false safety of pretence, the greater the pretence the greater the false sense of security it provides. The ultimate pretence is that we do not own these responsibilities at all, that they are in the possession of metaphysical constructs we ourselves have actually devised to contain them. These constructs are assigned a quality of mystery and of universal power they do not innately possess, and those who feel comfort in that false assignment draw further comfort from the ensuing lie that therefore their own actions are equally mysteriously derived from these fantasy forces directing their thoughts and actions.


A long, complex and impassioned post, nordmann; and one which deserves much thought and discussion. Much to say, but the two paragraphs quoted above I find especially interesting.

Certainly no one can doubt "the darkness of man's heart", but the problem is whether we are capable, of ourselves, of ever overcoming that darkness. Isn't that what Paul's Epistle to the Romans was all about? Romans was called by Samuel Taylor Coleridge "the most profound book ever written" and A. N. Wilson agrees, writing of it (during his atheist period, I might add) that it is "one of the most influential books which was ever written". Paul, I think (the whole epistle is so very difficult to understand), examines the terrible predicament we humans find ourselves in: for all our wisdom, our intellect - even, ironically, for all our virtue - we mess up continually: "For the good which I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I practise."

Moral imperatives (is that Kant?) and reason, it would seem, cannot save us from ourselves.

But one hesitates to say more. I certainly don't want more argument and/or upset on this your site, but generous discussion with good-will shown by and to all, could perhaps be useful, especially at the present time.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Sun 15 Nov 2015, 21:38

Temperance,

Nordmann started with:
"It is not for nothing that we draw a line between civilised and barbaric behaviour. It is not an accident that we, the world over, can distinguish between moral and immoral reason and behaviour, between that which is right and that which is so fundamentally wrong, between that which we know is good and that which we know with equal certainty is evil. These things have been learnt, not by we as individuals, but by countless generations of us as humans struggling collectively to share an existence which has always been under threat"
That was a subject that we already discussed in the good and evil thread and that was also one of my comprehensions of the history of mankind.
But the further reasoning I don't understand fully.
For me out of those times of developping civilisation there comes again and again the struggle of several groups, we the extended family and the outer world, our tribe and the other tribes, we and our religion and those believing something others, our "nation", "ethny" and the others.

And therefore I subscribe the sentence of Nordmann:
"good and evil""These things have been learnt, not by we as individuals, but by countless generations of us as humans struggling collectively to share an existence which has always been under threat"
Indeed by the countless successive civilisations always more fine tuning till we have now in the world of today have found the most coherent one up to now...doing research for the colonial attitudes of the Thirties it is unbelievable how much is changed in these let's say 80 years...

As for "individuals"? I think everyone has to question oneself about one's attitudes and to "think" about it if one goes against the nowadays existing world morality or agrees with it. Of course you have always instable persons, who let indoctrinate them...and it is not an apology, but sometimes circumstances are in favour of such an indoctrination...in my opinion the biggest guilt lays with the "indoctrinators".


And yes, who commits atrocities against humanity has to be condemned by the world community and there has to be retaliation.
And yes there seems to be a world humanity...for instance in Mechelen near Brussels, today or yesterday a manifestation against the atrocities in Paris:
http://www.gva.be/cnt/dmf20151115_01971111/mechelen-houdt-opnieuw-stille-optocht-tegen-terrorisme

Yes tolerancy. Yes, free expression of opinion. No to violence. I am Charlie. I am Achmed.
In the 7 o'clock news this evening I saw the result of the proposed cortège.
There was also a big group of moslims with it where one said these atrocities are not Islam...
They made a march from the city centre to the Kazerne Dossin:
https://www.kazernedossin.eu/EN/Museum-Memoriaal/Museum/Inleiding

As you can read and watch the film, it is from there that the Nazis deported the Belgian Jews an gypsies to the deadcamps...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 07:23

For those who are interested in history as well as in religious discussion, this is an excellent piece of writing. It has certainly given me much to think about.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/25/-sp-karen-armstrong-religious-violence-myth-secular



Many secular thinkers now regard “religion” as inherently belligerent and intolerant, and an irrational, backward and violent “other” to the peaceable and humane liberal state – an attitude with an unfortunate echo of the colonialist view of indigenous peoples as hopelessly “primitive”, mired in their benighted religious beliefs. There are consequences to our failure to understand that our secularism, and its understanding of the role of religion, is exceptional. When secularisation has been applied by force, it has provoked a fundamentalist reaction – and history shows that fundamentalist movements which come under attack invariably grow even more extreme. The fruits of this error are on display across the Middle East: when we look with horror upon the travesty of Isis, we would be wise to acknowledge that its barbaric violence may be, at least in part, the offspring of policies guided by our disdain.


PS The discussion on the "Religion - the Benefits" thread touched on the difficulties we face in defining the word "religious". Armstrong comments:


We now take the secular state so much for granted that it is hard for us to appreciate its novelty, since before the modern period, there were no “secular” institutions and no “secular” states in our sense of the word. Their creation required the development of an entirely different understanding of religion, one that was unique to the modern west. No other culture has had anything remotely like it, and before the 18th century, it would have been incomprehensible even to European Catholics. The words in other languages that we translate as “religion” invariably refer to something vaguer, larger and more inclusive. The Arabic word din signifies an entire way of life, and the Sanskrit dharma covers law, politics, and social institutions as well as piety. The Hebrew Bible has no abstract concept of “religion”; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to define faith in a single word or formula, because the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred. The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: “No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English ‘religion’ or ‘religious’.” In fact, the only tradition that satisfies the modern western criterion of religion as a purely private pursuit is Protestant Christianity, which, like our western view of “religion”, was also a creation of the early modern period.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 08:11

Discussing the barbaric and homicidal tendencies of the perpetrators of massacres such as happened in Paris on Friday in religious terms is to avoid the real issue. In this case, as in all similar cases, we see almost immediately "religious" statements to the effect that those who perpetrate such crimes have the "wrong kind" or the "wrong interpretation" of religious codes - mostly, it has to be observed, by others who claim to have the "right kind". In the meantime the alleged discrepancy to which they point goes nowhere towards identifying the actual causes, except maybe at best with highly specific respect to particular individuals involved in any specific case, and only then if the views of that individual are understood beyond what might be glibly deduced from what others assume. Of course all it really achieves is fulfillment of the wish of the person making the statement of disassociation to deflect blame away from what they perceive as "their" interpretation of the particular code to which they refer. Beyond that it serves no purpose, at least not in terms of either understanding or preventing repetition of the act. And it is not difficult to see how ineffective such statements in the past have been at achieving this anyway.

If this thread is to proceed in a direction towards comprehension of the crime and the minds behind it then it should do so avoiding religious reference, I feel. There is nothing comprehensible to be found there since so much of it is subjectively adopted and interpreted both by the criminal and those who wish to defend their religion against attack through nominal identification with the perpetrators.

If I choose to perpetrate a crime of any description and elect also to justify it on the totally subjective grounds that some outside agency dictated the rationale behind my own actions then I am exercising a form of cognitive dissonance. At the same time as I acknowledge what I am doing is wrong in everyone's eyes (otherwise it would have no shock value whatsoever, a crucial ingredient in terrorist acts) I am pretending that in my case it is right, and that it is right because something else allows it, not me. This is the double-think in which all terrorists engage. In fact beyond terrorism it is a dissonance in which we all engage from time to time, just with less drastic impact on others.

But that which is inescapable is that deep down we all know, even the perpetrator, that we have broken a very basic rule when we commit the act in question - be it a self-serving lie or the massacre of innocents. Using politics or religion to serve in a role of external justifier of our actions does not in any way excuse or explain the adoption of the action in the first place. That has its reasons, but they are not to be found in the analysis of the self-deceiver, that much is certain.

Temp, your assessment of St Paul and his approach to explaining the potential for harm and evil within us all is correct. He got nowhere near explaining it, and nor could he - nor indeed could any theologian operating within any religious code given their predisposition anyway to assigning causal attribution to metaphysical concepts. One cannot genuinely assume responsibility for all one's thoughts and actions if they are conducted in the belief that an external agency exercises some control over their rationale. So when, like today, I read in the news that certain political and religious spokespeople have already said that the events in Paris on Friday were "the devil's work", I simply consign these views to a dissonance the terrorists themselves availed of. It progresses no comprehension whatsoever, except to rather gloomily convince one that if such cognitive dissonance is tolerated and utilised by those who are in a position to tackle these issues at a fundamental level then we are simply doomed to more of the same.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 08:48

Well, it depends on what you mean by "devil", doesn't it?

Remember poor, misunderstood Simon (the martyr/saint figure) in Golding's Lord of the Flies (which title, as I'm sure you know, is a translation of the Hebrew "Beelzebub")? Simon tried to explain:

"Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”

Which, of course, is your point exactly (I think).  

nordmann wrote:
He got nowhere near explaining it...


True, but you have to admit it was a creditable effort.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 09:29

Regardless of what they might think they might mean by "devil" they are at the very least metaphorically ascribing cause to what is essentially a human metaphysical construct, one moreover which is believed by many to be a causal factor in the commitment of evil acts in anything but a metaphorical sense. It does little beyond express their abhorrence at the crime, and in that instance can be understood and even forgiven as little more than a linguistic shorthand for something they cannot otherwise find words for when describing an abhorrence we all share. But that does not mean that it is meaningful in any other way, and in fact the language used serves to iterate others' belief in that construct as a genuine force independent of its origin as a humanly constructed entity, one representing in reality something within themselves but which is arbitrarily portrayed as an external agent to avoid contemplating this uncomfortable fact.

I do not find the writings of St Paul to be a creditable examination of anything relevant in this case - except maybe that they represent a rare occasion when a theologian attempts to go beyond glib or ignorant ascriptions of responsibility for one's own actions. But his motive was to square this rather obvious facet of being human with a pre-ordained structure of the universe imposed by a deity in which he also believed, and with which he had problems anyway in reconciling that deity's causal role with obviously exercised human "free will". In terms of assessing true cause and motive therefore he was already pursuing his own leads into rather a blind alley - and it must be said that subsequent theologians for different reasons, in different ways, and with different degrees of success, have even managed to pursue the same line of what passes for reason in religious terms a little more cogently than Paul managed. Though ultimately with the same inconclusive result.

But to even discuss the above is to avoid discussing the more uncomfortable reality as presented by any honest assessment of any religiously motivated terrorist act as defined in those terms by the terrorist in question. Or for that matter any politically ideologically motivated act. Or indeed any act for which responsibility is deflected by the perpetrator from themselves to any external justification. At a certain point in each case actual responsibility for doing injury and worse to others is voluntarily relinquished by the individual and assigned instead to what can only be a construct - one which to the cognitively dissonant subjectively allows them to engage in thoughts and behaviour not in accord with what is universally acknowledged as "right", "good" or "moral" (or sometimes all of these together).

At the same point as responsibility is relinquished in this way there are also good grounds to note the extent to which this action is itself self-serving for the individual. In other words that even at the point of abdication of responsibility the true cause and motive is inescapably still the responsibility of the individual. The rest is simply a highly subjective and self-serving self-deception designed to facilitate a person's departure from common morality. So yes, there is no moral imperative except in very global terms. The individual might make it up as they go along. However they do not in doing so escape that global imperative.

To kill someone is wrong. To kill someone with justification requires something more than metaphysics to explain. The paucity of value in such an explanation is simply very obvious in the case of a terrorist killing innocent people. However you will rarely in the aftermath of such an incident hear people loudly question the use of metaphysical constructs in that way. Such constructs are used to justify so much else for so many.

My point is that they are used most often to justify departures from that which progresses us and that which can be defined as our common morality. There are no "just wars", there are just wars. And avoiding them requires an analysis that extends way beyond the terms as understood by those who provide any such justification.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 10:29

nordmann wrote:

I do not find the writings of St Paul to be a creditable examination of anything relevant in this case...


Well, you wouldn't, would you? That is where we differ, of course.

But I shall go away and wrestle with this as I go about my little life today. How difficult it all is. And Saint Paul's Letters are sometimes easier to understand than your posts, nordmann. And I am not being sarcastic in saying that. Or perhaps it's just that your words are more unsettling to the likes of me. But at least I do read them carefully and try to think about them.

I'm also mulling over something that was said to me (and others) yesterday by someone who is possibly as clever as you: in a discussion of "the darkness of man's heart", this person commented that we all have hearts full of anger and malice and revenge, no matter what we like to pretend. He added that we should not be declaring "I am Charlie", but that we should all perhaps consider the truth of "I am Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi".

That shut us all up. If we say we have no sin and all that...?
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 10:45

" ... we all have hearts full of anger and malice and revenge ..."

Well no. We all have hearts that pump blood around our bodies. We have minds however that can certainly be turned to such emotions, though the extent to which our minds might then be consumed by them (the "full" assertion in the comment above) is highly subjective, variable and individual.

Empathising with either the victim or the perpetrator is therefore a useful exercise but only up to a point. In terms of comprehension it is a first step - better than not doing it at all, but only worthwhile in terms of avoiding a repetition of creating either if the cause and effect in play for both of these is better understood in the process. That takes more than empathy.

I do not claim to be clever. But I know a term coined for effect when I hear one. If the intended effect was to force the listener to maybe investigate cause and effect beyond that to which their comfort zone normally restricts them then that's fine. It is always a good start, but like all good starts only if it actually leads somewhere.

If the same were said to me I would be inclined to ask the speaker "why?". So much said for effect rarely survives that simple inquiry.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 11:05

I'm afraid i feel that discussing this in terms of religion - any religion - is deeply unhelpful. I'll accept 'ideology' if you must, such atrocity is not limited to the religious.

The important question is, excepting those with such severe personality disorders or other mental illness that they fail to see the wrong in what they do, why do people behave this way? I also feel that talk of 'devils' or the 'darkness in men's hearts' is also unhelpful. As ever, I must return to those innate needs and evolutionarily inscribed tendencies that have, ironically, allowed our species to be become 'civilised'. I have some problems about using 'civilised' and 'barbaric' in this anyway but leave that aside. Yes, we all have may have streaks of sadism, sexual licentiousness and narcissism within us but these are usually kept in check by societal frameworks. It is sadly true that virtually every society has exploited these tendencies, particularly in young men, to further its aims and no matter how well trained they are or how magnificent their uniforms or advanced their technology it is the same phenomenon.

So I feel we need to look to why the very normal search for identity, acceptance, approval, validation and status, to feel to belong, to
matter, leads some to reject their current lives and adopt any ideology which encourages and valorises behaviour that they instinctively know to be wrong. It is in the analysis of this rather than the interrogation of the contents of their chosen ideology that gives any hope of understanding and thus perhaps moderating their behaviour.

I apologise that this is my usual waffling spewed out and not a carefully composed response, if I waited to construct that I would never post!

Ah, there's a new post but I'll send this one anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 11:32

According to this article, ISIS is the Muslim equivalent of David Koresh;

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 12:08

Even if not all in that article is to be believed, an all too credible poverty of intellect, intelligence, education, reason and morality pervades every sentiment attributed to the ideologists driving it. Ferval's question is therefore all the more apt - what motivates a person to invest so fundamentally in an ideology so easily demonstrated to be one of despair? And so fundamentally that they subvert all innate morality in exchange for an identity and sense of worth they believe they receive from doing so, one which they perceive as better than that which they actually have while amply demonstrating through their actions that it can be anything but?

And why would we wish to focus attention only on ISIS - a nebulous and ill-conceived ideology if even that is not crediting it with more cogency than it possesses? It is not the only one that incites its subscribers to abandon common morality. Others exist, others have existed, and we can be pretty sure that others will come. If we really are to anticipate this and proactively prevent their lethal effects why not examine the common mechanics at work in each case and not just pretend that addressing the symptoms in any individual instance will somehow address the root causes?

The point as I see it is that entities like ISIS are simply subversions of commonly adopted techniques employed by systems in which we are all enlisted to some extent or another. This is what makes accurate analysis not only difficult but actually so unpopular as to render it null and void, or at least rather meaningless as the above linked article demonstrates.

Religious leaders pull back from the logical conclusion of their own condemnations for obvious reasons. But in effect so do many political leaders (as well as the many who have seemingly no opinion at all). And in fact so, voluntarily, do many ordinary individuals who one would have thought should at least explore the possibility that their silence contributes to the cause, even if only in a small way.

Dismissing the obviously subversive is easy. Killing them seems to be easier still, or at least obviously easier than getting to grips with what created them. That is where the truly uncomfortable truths lie. Every subscription to any pretence that allows deviation from common morality has contributed to their existence. Perpetuating such tendency to take refuge in pretence for some while denouncing it for others seems a stupid way to go about things if the aim is that the often lethal effects of doing so should not reoccur.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 13:35

I wonder if anyone has read M. Scott Peck's disturbing book, The People of the Lie: Hope For Healing Human Evil?

Peck was the psychiatrist appointed  by the US military to report on the My Lai massacre, the "most shocking incident of the Vietnam war". The massacre happened on March 16th 1968, just months after the so-called "summer of love". U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division, seemingly went crazy. Only three American soldiers tried to stop the shooting and raping going on around them: they were later denounced as "traitors".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre

This is the second bestselling book by Dr M. Scott Peck. In this gripping psychology book, the leading psychiatrist describes his encounters during psychiatric therapy with patients who are not merely ill but manifestly evil - People of the Lie. This brilliant, disturbing book forces us to confront the darker side of our natures and to recogise that without spiritual and religious dimension, modern psychiatry cannot claim to understand human nature or behaviour.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 13:51

Temp wrote:
...without spiritual and religious dimension, modern psychiatry cannot claim to understand human nature or behaviour.

This is true. Without understanding the influences, however zany or imbecilic these might appear to a rational observer, which can make certain apparently sensible and ordinary people feel comfortable doing completely reprehensible and despicable things it is indeed very hard for a modern psychiatrist to help them.

I imagine modern psychologists have a slightly different take on this. Finding the actual human dispositions and tendencies often glibly ascribed to "spiritual dimensions" is after all a big part of their field of study.

When "spiritual" or "religious" is used in explaining behaviour it is often to disguise the actual decision making and lack of acceptance of personal responsibility for one's actions which will almost always be found as an underlying factor in deviant, aberrant or downright lethally immoral behaviour that offends common understanding of right and wrong. It is a cop-out, in other words, and only makes actual sense to those adopting the same tactic for other (hopefully less destructive) purposes.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 14:00

Crikey, My Lai was indeed dreadful but amongst the panoply of institutionalised horror perpetrated in Vietnam, calling it the most shocking incident seems to me just ridiculous. And I'm sorry but the blurb you quote is the kind of platitudinous guff that makes me see red.

Please again, can we keep away from concepts of spirituality and religion as motivating factors in either encouraging or restraining vile acts, it is almost always only another signifier of group identity and thus a dead end and will only create more discord here.

edit: Yet again there's another post appeared whilst typing. I'll go ahead with this one anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 14:07

ferval wrote:
Please again, can we keep away from concepts of spirituality and religion as motivating factors in either encouraging or restraining vile acts, it is almost always only another signifier of group identity and thus a dead end and will only create more discord here.

is that a gagging order, ferval? Mmm. I'll go back to Tudor banquets then and keep my stupid mouth shut here.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 14:31

ferval's plea to avoid discord hardly seems a gagging order.

And the My Lai massacre does at least bring up the rather more secular pretences employed in these matters when the perpetrators have to defend or justify their actions, so whether it was the worst atrocity or not (it was definitely the one that most shook Americans back home at the time) it did cast a huge light on tendencies to deride, for example, the standard German officers' defence at Nuremburg that they were only following orders. Calley, having first lied about the circumstances, reverted to this defence too, one which ultimately depended on an implicit understanding that innocent women and children's lives were of less consequence than the successful completion of one's ordered duty in a situation of conflict endorsed by one's superiors.

In this scenario too there is abdication of responsibility, and religion or spirituality does not even have to be factored in at all for the process of abdication to be seen to have been adopted and carried through to its lethal conclusion by the individuals concerned. What made My Lai an interesting case in this respect was how a certain few individuals, even at the height of the murderous assault, disassociated themselves completely from the course of action their superiors were commanding them to perform. These individuals were later commended for their obvious conscientious assumption of responsibility for their actions (they stood to be court martialled for disobeying orders). However the others under Calley's command who did the killing were neither deemed irresponsible nor held responsible for the decision to conform. The former just would not make sense in military terms and the latter, in fact, would call into question the whole morality of conduct of soldiers which the military in any system would prefer never have to be addressed at all.

But it was worth mentioning, and thank you, Temp for raising it. It was a glaring departure from common morality which at least in a limited way was publicly scrutinised on that basis. These scrutinies are in fact the exception rather than the rule. But when they occur they should help inform our stance on other such atrocities, regardless of the stated reasons the perpetrators themselves suggest or even believe lie behind their actions.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 14:43

Temperance wrote:
ferval wrote:
Please again, can we keep away from concepts of spirituality and religion as motivating factors in either encouraging or restraining vile acts, it is almost always only another signifier of group identity and thus a dead end and will only create more discord here.

is that a gagging order, ferval? Mmm. I'll go back to Tudor banquets then and keep my stupid mouth shut here.

No, it's a request made with the best of intentions. But you know what that paves.

I just feel that, although people may wield their religious (or political) beliefs as justification for their acts of good or ill, it's not as simple as that. If it were, how could one religion engender both? Just blaming or praising one or other set of dogma or interpretations just takes us back to angels on pinheads and addresses nothing of the real questions which revolve around the overcoming of what are pretty instinctive prohibitions on the killing of the innocent stranger and I think that that is always a political act, however it is dressed up.

It's surely apparent that people kill others (unless compelled by threat) because those others do not deserve to live and that is because they are different to 'us' and in that difference there is in some way a perceived threat to 'us'. That difference is as often one of ethnicity, colour, politics or any number of things and religion is only one, though admittedly a powerful one, of the things that make 'us' 'us'.

edit: Oh blast - there's yet another post! Slow down folks please!

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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 14:47

I think ascribing purely religious motivation to groups such is IS is a mistake, or indeed applying such a broad brush to the reasonings of those involved when each and every one will have their own reasons. Their justifications for acts committed may indeed have religious overtones but their actions and motivations are invariably political in nature, just as the original causes of the conflict were purely political so will the solution will be found in the realm of politics.

An excellent article here, and as close to any I have read so far that comes even close to answering the conundrum.

http://www.thenation.com/article/what-i-discovered-from-interviewing-isis-prisoners/
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 15:01

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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 21:28

I have deleted my post above because I was being dishonest: I was indeed angry at what you said, ferval, and my clumsy humour, made in an attempt to deny that anger, was quite inappropriate on this very serious thread. I had actually been unaware that my remarks were causing "discord": I thought we were having an interesting and friendly discussion - even though we disagree fundamentally about so many things. That said about disagreement, I do actually try to acknowledge the wisdom - truth even - of much of what nordmann says here: I am merely trying to suggest that there is also another way of looking at the way we humans are and the way we behave. You and nordmann favour the scientific/ anthropological approach: I have been trained in a different discipline. I respect both you and nordmann and your views; but your comment about "seeing red" at the platitudinous rubbish I had posted would suggest that you have little respect for anything I have to offer. That saddens me, but perhaps I have no business posting on a history site like this - or at least on a thread like this. I shall add a little more here, and then retire as gracefully as I can to the Head of the Table topic.


ferval wrote:
It's surely apparent that people kill others (unless compelled by threat) because those others do not deserve to live and that is because they are different to 'us' and in that difference there is in some way a perceived threat to 'us'. That difference is as often one of ethnicity, colour, politics or any number of things and religion is only one, though admittedly a powerful one, of the things that make 'us' 'us'.



I'm sure that is true, but I believe our problems as humans perhaps go much, much deeper; something so many writers and philosophers, and, more recently, film-makers, have so often attempted to explore.

I have mentioned William Golding in an earlier post: he is only one of many writers (the list is pretty long) who have suggested that a propensity to evil  is something that is in all of us.

In Lord of the Flies, after the savage beating to death of the innocent Simon, Ralph tries to talk about the dead boy and the terrible thing that has happened. He acknowledges that they have all been complicit in a murder. The usually wise and fair Piggy - ever one to be rational - denies murder and tries to explain it all away. Simon's death, Piggy insists, was some kind of "accident" and one that happened because "we was (sic) scared". It also happened, he insists, because the mystic Simon was considered by the other boys to be "batty" - different - the very points you make above?

But Ralph is more honest than Piggy: he shakes his head and admits with horror:

“I wasn’t scared,” said Ralph slowly, “I was—I don’t know what I was.”

How effective is that adverb "slowly"! Ralph is struggling with the terrible realisation that the murder had been exciting and even enjoyable.


There is something similar in Francis Ford Coppola's study of the Vietnam conflict, Apocalypse Now (which was based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness), a film in which the US Colonel, Kurtz, is presented as a kind of fallen Lucifer, a man "whose mind is clear, but whose soul has gone mad". I remember being particularly struck by the scene where, in the middle of a skirmish set in a jungle lit up like something out of Dante's Inferno, Captain Willard, U.S. special forces assassin and the protagonist of the film, desperately demands of a crazed soldier : "Who's in charge here? Do you know who's in charge?" The chilling rely is: "Do I know who's in charge? Oh yes, I know who's in charge here."

And I won't start on Shakespeare - his presentation of Iago and of Edmund, and, of course, of Macbeth. The latter, one of Shakespeare's four great tragedies, is one of the greatest studies of evil ever written; it is also, of course, about a soldier who has gone badly wrong. The most recent film of this drama, the one just released starring Michael Fassbender, although at times rather Macbeth meets Game of Thrones meets Breaking Bad meets Braveheart, is full of religious overtones. The scene, for instance, where Lady MacDuff and her children are burnt to death shows a hardened soldier sinking to his knees, weeping as he watches them die. He is holding a crucifix which he kisses. An interesting bit of direction in a film made for modern, secular audiences.

Should I send this? It's probably not relevant to a history thread at all, and is yet more waffly Eng. Lit. crap from me - if so I apologise. But at least the site came alive again this morning - or so it seemed to me.

I really am going back to the Tudors now -where I belong and where I'm happy. I'm also reading about the "Dublin King" - might resurrect the Princes thread tomorrow. Can't go wrong with those boys - and the Nun of Leicester of course.


Last edited by Temperance on Tue 17 Nov 2015, 09:08; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : bad typing.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 21:33

Ferval,

"The important question is, excepting those with such severe personality disorders or other mental illness that they fail to see the wrong in what they do, why do people behave this way? I also feel that talk of 'devils' or the 'darkness in men's hearts' is also unhelpful. As ever, I must return to those innate needs and evolutionarily inscribed tendencies that have, ironically, allowed our species to be become 'civilised'. I have some problems about using 'civilised' and 'barbaric' in this anyway but leave that aside. Yes, we all have may have streaks of sadism, sexual licentiousness and narcissism within us but these are usually kept in check by societal frameworks. It is sadly true that virtually every society has exploited these tendencies, particularly in young men, to further its aims and no matter how well trained they are or how magnificent their uniforms or advanced their technology it is the same phenomenon.

So I feel we need to look to why the very normal search for identity, acceptance, approval, validation and status, to feel to belong, to
matter, leads some to reject their current lives and adopt any ideology which encourages and valorises behaviour that they instinctively know to be wrong. It is in the analysis of this rather than the interrogation of the contents of their chosen ideology that gives any hope of understanding and thus perhaps moderating their behaviour."

"It's surely apparent that people kill others (unless compelled by threat) because those others do not deserve to live and that is because they are different to 'us' and in that difference there is in some way a perceived threat to 'us'. That difference is as often one of ethnicity, colour, politics or any number of things and religion is only one, though admittedly a powerful one, of the things that make 'us' 'us'


Yes, and now reading more from Nordmann I understand better what he means with personal responsability.


"As ever, I must return to those innate needs and evolutionarily inscribed tendencies that have, ironically, allowed our species to be become 'civilised' "
It was that what I wanted to start with in my answer to Temperance...

"Yes, we all have may have streaks of sadism, sexual licentiousness and narcissism within us but these are usually kept in check by societal frameworks. It is sadly true that virtually every society has exploited these tendencies, particularly in young men, to further its aims and no matter how well trained they are or how magnificent their uniforms or advanced their technology it is the same phenomenon."

I am glad that you too set the problem in a more broader frame covering the phenomenon over all the fields of appliance.

"So I feel we need to look to why the very normal search for identity, acceptance, approval, validation and status, to feel to belong, to matter, leads some to reject their current lives and adopt any ideology which encourages and valorises behaviour that they instinctively know to be wrong. It is in the analysis of this rather than the interrogation of the contents of their chosen ideology that gives any hope of understanding and thus perhaps moderating their behaviour."
"It's surely apparent that people kill others (unless compelled by threat) because those others do not deserve to live and that is because they are different to 'us' and in that difference there is in some way a perceived threat to 'us'. That difference is as often one of ethnicity, colour, politics or any number of things and religion is only one, though admittedly a powerful one, of the things that make 'us' 'us'"

 Yes that's the very question. And it is not dependent of studies, as many of the exalted ones have done studies and become perhaps by that many times the "brains" of the atrocities. But how Nordmann's "responsability" is to frame now in all this is also a question.

In your last paragraph you hint also to the group's feeling and the fear of "us" in one "group" for the "other" in another "group". It was also that that I wanted to express in my reply to Temperance, but you worded it that much better.

And at the end comes the difficult question: How can we deter some youngsters from radicalizing to dogmatisms and to take up their "responsabilities" towards society?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 21:38

Islanddawn wrote:
I think ascribing purely religious motivation to groups such is IS is a mistake, or indeed applying such a broad brush to the reasonings of those involved when each and every one will have their own reasons. Their justifications for acts committed may indeed have religious overtones but their actions and motivations are invariably political in nature, just as the original causes of the conflict were purely political so will the solution will be found in the realm of politics.

An excellent article here, and as close to any I have read so far that comes even close to answering the conundrum.

http://www.thenation.com/article/what-i-discovered-from-interviewing-isis-prisoners/


Islanddawn,

of course the article is right. There are also overhere recruted people for IS with money...but to be honest many "radicalized" ones part from here for pure ideologic reasons and that are the most dangerous ones.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 21:53

Triceratops wrote:
According to this article, ISIS is the Muslim equivalent of David Koresh;

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/



Triceratops,


yes perhaps a comparison with a sect can be done, but then a bigger sect.
One friend of mine said some time ago, now that we are rid of that Roman-Catholic sect nowadays we have to do again now with a new sect intruding in our lives, meaning the Muslim traditions...and it was not an ex "colonial" one...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Mon 16 Nov 2015, 22:07

Temperance,

"That saddens me, but perhaps I have no business posting on a history site like this - or at least on a thread like this. I shall add a little more here, and then retire as gracefully as I can to the Head of Table thread."

No, you are as welcome to this discussion as every one else. And it is always interesting to see another view. And your opinion is as valuable as any other on this thread. It is only by discussing as the "Mad Mike" from the old BBC messageboard said that we can come to a broader and more agreed on picture.
Mostly I too have to adjust my opinions during a debate. I even observed that even a Nordmann reluctantly returned from a given way of thinking...although not that often Wink ...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Tue 17 Nov 2015, 09:28

Well, maybe, Paul. But I do seem to wind people up the wrong way and I never mean to - well, not usually.

I wasn't going to add anything else, but I have just found this Spectator article. Not a particularly profound piece of writing, but I note Toby Young mentions Kurtz, too - the original Conrad character I think, though, not Marlon Brando. And although Young mentions insanity with regard to this character, he does not consider the idea I quoted of Kurtz's "mind being clear, but his soul insane". Nordmann, I suppose, would say that is nonsense (although Plato wouldn't) - that there is no difference between "mind" and "soul".

But, as ever, I ramble off-topic.

http://new.spectator.co.uk/2014/09/the-lesson-of-the-young-men-fighting-for-isis-evil-is-in-all-of-us/

Homo homini lupus est, quoted in article - unfair on wolves?



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_homini_lupus
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Wed 18 Nov 2015, 09:30

Temp wrote:
I wasn't going to add anything else

Me neither - the present mosaic grinds inexorably towards its ugly completion in Paris and there is little to be said with respect to the mentality of murderous self-loathers except that anomie doesn't even begin to cover it (a term - rather ironically in the circumstances - first coined by a French philosopher).

The emptiness, the callousness and the deep despair that epitomises these people and their actions resists the identification of a common or root cause, purely because - as Sartre (another French philosopher) once remarked - "one can understand the mind; it is a different proposition to account for the mindless". However the increasing irrelevancy of mindlessness is a heartening trend in human development, even if the exceptions when they occur shock us so deeply. That they shock us at all, and are less and less an aspect of the various social contracts by which the vast majority of us try to hold ourselves sane, healthy and alive, is cause for optimism and joy.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Thu 19 Nov 2015, 12:40

PaulRyckier wrote:
One friend of mine said some time ago, now that we are rid of that Roman-Catholic sect nowadays we have to do again now with a new sect intruding in our lives, meaning the Muslim traditions...and it was not an ex "colonial" one.

I suspect that this kind of thinking is, perhaps, more widespread in the Western world than we might care to believe. And neither is it new. For example the massacre by Paris police of pro-Algerian independence demonstrators in October 1961 no doubt contained an element of this sort of thinking.

Paris, of course, is no stranger to religiously-motivated massacres. The St Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572 being a case in point. As with the 1961 events, that too was state-sponsored. And before any of us English start getting too smug in all this then let's not forget that we also had our very own state-sponsored massacre in 1002 when people were killed for the crime of being Danish. And, coincidently with last Friday's atrocities, that took place on St Brice's Day - 13th November.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Thu 19 Nov 2015, 13:32

The word "massacre" was first used in English by Christopher Marlowe in the title of his 1592 play, The Massacre at Paris.



From the Marlowe Society website:

The play is virtually unique in addressing contemporary European history, and indeed a sensitive political situation on England's own doorstep. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, instigated by the French royal rulers and Catholic nobles (including the Duke of Guise), saw the systematic murder and execution of thousands of Protestant Huguenots in the French capital in August 1572. Many of the Huguenot leadership were in Paris for the wedding of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the French King's sister Margaret. With the notable exceptions of Navarre and the Prince of Condé, virtually all the Huguenot nobles present were exterminated along with a large number of ordinary Protestants living in Paris, including scholars, preachers, clergymen, and all manner of ordinary men, women and children. It was a horrific act of mass murder that shocked the world, especially neighbouring Protestant countries such as England and the Netherlands. The terror was more acute due to a good number of Englishmen in Paris who witnessed the butchery first hand, including the Queen's Ambassador Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Philip Sidney.









The 1994 film, La Reine Margot, which looks at the events just before and after the terrible slaughter of 1572, is a controversial but serious study of this appalling event in French history. The acting is excellent. The film is based on the novel by Alexander Dumas (père).




http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Queen+Margot+Full+Movie&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=6837771A32F550751EA46837771A32F550751EA4




Sadly, as Vizzer points out, massacres are nothing new -  but perhaps this is neither the time nor the place to discuss such things. And it seemed best to remove the picture of la reine Margot which I originally posted: the blood-soaked image, taken from the film, seemed quite inappropriate somehow when I looked again at this thread.

However, I've left the historic details of Marlowe's play which may be of interest. I hope so, anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Thu 19 Nov 2015, 17:59

Vizzer,

"I suspect that this kind of thinking is, perhaps, more widespread in the Western world than we might care to believe. And neither is it new. For example the massacre by Paris police of pro-Algerian independence demonstrators in October 1961 no doubt contained an element of this sort of thinking."
Yes the Algerian war I read a lot about it and the nearly civil war in France and later the Pieds noirs...since there is something changed in France...and not only political correctness...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_de_l%27arm%C3%A9e_secr%C3%A8te

See also my reply to Nordmann in the colonial thread.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Fri 20 Nov 2015, 21:37

Temperance wrote:
The 1994 film, La Reine Margot, which looks at the events just before and after the terrible slaughter of 1572, is a controversial but serious study of this appalling event in French history. The acting is excellent. The film is based on the novel by Alexander Dumas (père).

La Reine Margot is a pertinent film Temp. It was produced by Claude Berri at a time of heightening tensions in France following the military coup in Algeria in 1992 which had overturned the general election result there. The election had been won by the Islamic Salvation Front yet the coup had been applauded by media and establishment figures in the West and not least in France. Needless to say a civil war then broke out in Algeria with knock-on implications for France’s large Algerian community and also for other Moslems there.

The casting of Isabelle Adjani in the title role was seen as symbolic. She was born in Paris to a Moslem father from Algeria which at the time of her birth was still in union with European France. Adjani’s mother was Christian from Bavaria. In other words Isabelle very much embodied the ethnic diversity of Paris and of many Parisians. This included Berri himself who was Jewish of Rumanian and Polish parentage while his wife was Lebanese Christian.

The choice of novel was also seemingly symbolic being by Alexandre Dumas (himself of part African Haitian descent) and written in the aftermath of the Franco-Moroccan War of 1844, which (in a 19th Century example of mission creep) had seen France invade Morocco which had been used as a base by the Algerian rebel leader Abd El Kader. With his Haitian heritage, Dumas was keenly interested in France’s overseas and colonial affairs and (although he supported the resurgent French imperialism of the July Monarchy) he strongly promoted the view that those of mixed ancestry should be deemed just as French as others. His 1843 novel Georges was about just this issue. And with the ongoing conflict in North Africa in the 1840s, the anti-intolerance message of La Reine Margot (1845) can be seen as Dumas signalling that if the French overseas empire were to be a success then it would also have to be inclusive in religious matters.

In a slightly dismal postscript – whereas the publication of the novel La Reine Margot in 1845 came a year after the Treaty of Tangiers which signalled peace between France and Morocco, the release of the film La Reine Margot came a year before the Paris metro bombings of 1995 which signalled that the post-colonial struggle between religious and secular forces had arrived in France itself. Twenty years on and it seems that this conflict remains unresolved.
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PostSubject: Re: The Poverty of Terror - a mosaic view   Sun 22 Nov 2015, 14:16

Vizzer wrote:
Temperance wrote:
The 1994 film, La Reine Margot, which looks at the events just before and after the terrible slaughter of 1572, is a controversial but serious study of this appalling event in French history. The acting is excellent. The film is based on the novel by Alexander Dumas (père).

La Reine Margot is a pertinent film Temp. It was produced by Claude Berri at a time of heightening tensions in France following the military coup in Algeria in 1992 which had overturned the general election result there. The election had been won by the Islamic Salvation Front yet the coup had been applauded by media and establishment figures in the West and not least in France. Needless to say a civil war then broke out in Algeria with knock-on implications for France’s large Algerian community and also for other Moslems there.

The casting of Isabelle Adjani in the title role was seen as symbolic. She was born in Paris to a Moslem father from Algeria which at the time of her birth was still in union with European France. Adjani’s mother was Christian from Bavaria. In other words Isabelle very much embodied the ethnic diversity of Paris and of many Parisians. This included Berri himself who was Jewish of Rumanian and Polish parentage while his wife was Lebanese Christian.

The choice of novel was also seemingly symbolic being by Alexandre Dumas (himself of part African Haitian descent) and written in the aftermath of the Franco-Moroccan War of 1844, which (in a 19th Century example of mission creep) had seen France invade Morocco which had been used as a base by the Algerian rebel leader Abd El Kader. With his Haitian heritage, Dumas was keenly interested in France’s overseas and colonial affairs and (although he supported the resurgent French imperialism of the July Monarchy) he strongly promoted the view that those of mixed ancestry should be deemed just as French as others. His 1843 novel Georges was about just this issue. And with the ongoing conflict in North Africa in the 1840s, the anti-intolerance message of La Reine Margot (1845) can be seen as Dumas signalling that if the French overseas empire were to be a success then it would also have to be inclusive in religious matters.

In a slightly dismal postscript – whereas the publication of the novel La Reine Margot in 1845 came a year after the Treaty of Tangiers which signalled peace between France and Morocco, the release of the film La Reine Margot came a year before the Paris metro bombings of 1995 which signalled that the post-colonial struggle between religious and secular forces had arrived in France itself. Twenty years on and it seems that this conflict remains unresolved.



I had no idea about any of that, Vizzer, when I mentioned La Reine Margot. Thank you for your informative post.

A lot of post-colonial chickens seem to be coming home to roost these days - that old agreement between France and Great Britain, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 for instance? I wonder what our old friend, T. E. Lawrence, would make of the present unholy mess?
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