The Spectator, 10 September 2005
Gstaad: Back in the good old days, the common belief was that the climate was determined by a large number of gods, with Poseidon in specific charge of the weather at sea. Poseidon could be the hell of a shit at times, torturing poor sailors for years, starting with the wily Ithakan king, Odysseus. Still, people built temples in Poseidon’s name in order to appease him, east of Athens.
I have often worshipped in Sounion, as the temples the last civilized thing one sees while sailing to sinful islands like Mykonos. My prayers have always been the same. Please, pretty please, Poseidon, help me find a beautiful blonde German girl with big tits in Mykonos, one that also gives it away like a Frisbee … you get my drift, Poseidon old boy …
Surprisingly, Poseidon has at times answered my prayers, but less so recently despite the moohla I leave at his house in Sounion.
Be that as it may, when major religions began to believe in a single god, Poseidon’s stock went south quicker than you can say Enron. The majority of the people now ascribe to a theory of weather based on cloud formation, air pressure, wind velocity and other scientific mumbo-jumbo that my Greek brain cannot comprehend.
The trouble, of course, is with the minority of people who think God gets around a lot and is responsible for, say, Katrina – not the one with the big tits in Mykonos, but the one that hit New Orleans. Now, I ask you, how in hell can anyone be so dumb as to believe that that white-bearded Almighty decided to punish those poor folk of New Orleans because they drink a lot, smoke too much dope, fornicate non-stop and have children out of wedlock?
As Niall Ferguson wrote in the Telegraph, ‘Natural Disasters have no moral significance … and, please, let’s not call them Acts of God … ‘If anyone should be punished by God it is not the poor who fornicate, take dope and drink, but those son-of-bitches who pray for more Katrinas – the hurricane – so they can gouge the last remaining pennies from our pockets for their lousy oil.
We all know that Rockefeller and Getty were prize gangsters who should have been shot at dawn for greed, but they are great benefactors of mankind in comparison with the present bunch of faceless scum.
In a civilised country, like the one just visited by the sainted editor, the president would invite these gangsters to dinner, then arrest them, put them inside a sub-freezing cell without any clothes on, and tell them to drop their prices as quickly as Jude Law dropped his pants with the nanny, or else.
The trouble is America and Europe are no longer civilised societies, just hypocritical ones. Oil executives belong behind bars, just as radical Muslim so-called Imans belong in quick boats heading for destinations down south.
Big oil is looting with impunity while the overwhelmed cops and national guardsmen are trying to stop small-time looters from stealing TV sets. Chevron has pledged $5 million for relief. This is three second’s profit for the crooks who run Chevron – in fact, an insult.
What I don’t understand is what is going on inside Bush’s head. Unlike most anti-Americans, I am not a Bush-hater. Far from it. He is a kind of decent man who was rolled by fanatical neocons determined to invade the Middle East. A totally incompetent Donald Rumsfeld – a man so arrogant he refused to listen to the military, who told him he needed at least 500,000 soldiers on the ground – has not helped Dubya’s case.
Now is the time for Bush to call in his chits from big oil. Yet he hasn’t even mentioned the crooks. Most likely they have been calling in their chits, 75 million, for the last campaign.
Mind you, the world seems mesmerized by New Orleans, as if Katrina was the first disaster ever. We expect this to happen in the subcontinent but not in America, said a particular moronic French woman over the weekend. That is when I lost my temper and told her about some Bismarcks and Wittgensteins and Schoenburgs in the closing days of the second world war.
Berlin is one big rubble. There are no lights, no water, just silent emptiness. Missie Vassiltchikov, the great beauty, is writing in Berlin Diaries: ‘Alone with Gottfried Bismarck when Heinrich Wittgenstein dropped in for supper. He looks pale and tired. The papers are full of his exploits. The other night he shot down six bombers in half an hour … Loremarie Schoenburg and I were nervous when the bombs began to crash nearby, but the men refused to go down to the cellar and so we sat down to dinner instead …’
Compare this magnificent sangfroid with the hysterics of New Orleans and weep.
While the civilised Anglo-Americans were busy bombing women and children back to the Stone Age, the Bismarcks, Wittgensteins, Schoenburgs and Vassiltchikov sat down to dinner, not bothering with the cellar.
Noblesse toujours oblige.
As an aside-refresher, note the following:
From: Peter Wakefield Sault
Sent: Saturday, 24 September 2005 9:55 AM
To: Adelaide Institute
Subject: Robert Fisk
Regarding my commentary on Robert Fisk and the Protocols, which adorns the AI website, here are two very closely related very recent events, in the order in which they occurred:-
1. Robert Fisk belatedly but publicly condemns the Hebrew scriptures.
2. Robert Fisk is not allowed into the USA.
Coincidence? I think not.
All the best
We have long ago lost our moral compass, so how can we lecture the Islamic world?
Years of Western interference in the Middle East has left the region heavy with injustices
By Robert Fisk
09/17/05 "The Independent" --- In an age when Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara can identify "evil ideologies" and al-Qa'ida can call the suicide bombing of 156 Iraqi Shias "good news" for the "nation of Islam", thank heaven for our readers, in particular John Shepherd, principal lecturer in religious studies at St Martin's College, Lancaster.
Responding to a comment of mine - to the effect that "deep down" we do, however wrongly, suspect that religion has something to do with the London bombings - Mr Shepherd gently admonishes me. "I wonder if there may be more to it than that," he remarks. And I fear he is right and I am wrong.
His arguments are contained in a brilliantly conceived article on the roots of violence and extremism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam - and the urgent need to render all religions safe for "human consumption".
Put very simply, Mr Shepherd takes a wander through some of the nastiest bits of the Bible and the Koran - those bits we prefer not to quote or not to think about - and finds that mass murder and ethnic cleansing get a pretty good bill of health if we take it all literally.
The Jewish "entry into the promised land" was clearly accompanied by bloody conquest and would-be genocide. The Christian tradition has absorbed this inheritance, entering its own "promised land" with a ruthlessness that extends to cruel anti-Semitism. The New Testament, Mr Shepherd points out, "contains passages that would ... be actionable under British laws against incitement to racial hatred" were they to be published fresh today.
The Muslim tradition - with its hatred of idolatry - contains, in the career of the Prophet, "scenes of bloodshed and murder which are shocking to modern religious sensibilities".
Thus, for example, Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli military doctor who massacred 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994, committed his mass murder on Purim, a festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish communities from the Persian empire which was followed by large-scale killing "to avenge themselves on their enemies" (Esther 8:13).
The Palestinians, of course, were playing the role of the Persians, at other times that of the Amalekites ("... kill man and woman, babe and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" - 1, Samuel 15:1, 3). The original "promised land" was largely on what is now the West Bank - hence the Jewish colonisation of Palestinian land - while the coastal plain was not (although suggestions that Israel should transplant itself further east, leaving Haifa, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to the Palestinians of the West Bank are unlikely to commend themselves to Israel’s rulers).
The "chosen people" theme, meanwhile, moved into Christianity - the Protestants of Northern Ireland, for example, (remember the Ulster Covenant?), and apartheid South Africa and, in some respects, the United States.
The New Testament is laced with virulent anti-Semitism, accusing the Jews of killing Christ. Read Martin Luther. The Koran demanded the forced submission of conquered peoples in the name of religion (the Koran 9:29), and Mohammed’s successor, the Caliph Abu Bakr, stated specifically that "we will treat as an unbeliever whoever rejects Allah and Mohammed, and we will make holy war upon him ... for such there is only the sword and fire and indiscriminate slaughter."
So there you go. And how does Mr Shepherd deal with all this? Settlement policy should be rejected not because it is theologically questionable but because the dispossession of a people is morally wrong. Anti-Semitism must be rejected not because it is incompatible with the Gospels but because it is incompatible with any basic morality based on shared human values.
If Muslim violence is to be condemned, it is not because Mohammed is misunderstood but because it violates basic human rights. "West Bank settlements, Christian anti-Semitism and Muslim terrorism ... are not morally wrong because theologically questionable - they are theologically questionable because morally wrong."
And it is true that most Christians, Jews and Muslims draw on the tolerant, moderate aspects of their tradition. We prefer not to accept the fact that the religions of the children of Abraham are inherently flawed in respect of intolerance, discrimination, violence and hatred. Only - if I understand Mr Shepherd’s thesis correctly - by putting respect for human rights above all else and by making religion submit to universal human values can we " grasp the nettle".
Phew. I can hear the fundamentalists roaring already. And I have to say it will probably be the Islamic ones who will roar loudest. Reinterpretation of the Koran is such a quicksand, so dangerous to approach, so slippery a subject that most Muslims will not go near.
How can we suggest that a religion based on "submission" to God must itself "submit" to our happy-clappy, all-too-Western " universal human rights"? I don’t know. Especially when we " Christians" have largely failed to condemn some of our own atrocities - indeed, have preferred to forget them.
Take the Christians who massacred the Muslims of Srebrenica. Or take the Christians - Lebanese Phalangist allies of the Israelis - who entered the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut and slaughtered up to 1,700 Palestinian Muslim civilians.
Do we remember that? Do we recall that the massacres occurred between 16 and 18 September 1982? Yes, today is the 23rd anniversary of that little genocide - and I suspect The Independent will be one of the very few newspapers to remember it. I was in those camps in 1982. I climbed over the corpses. Some of the Christian Phalangists in Beirut even had illustrations of the Virgin Mary on their gun butts, just as the Christian Serbs did in Bosnia.
Are we therefore in a position to tell our Muslim neighbours to "grasp the nettle"? I rather think not. Because the condition of human rights has been so eroded by our own folly, our illegal invasion of Iraq and the anarchy that we have allowed to take root there, our flagrant refusal to prevent further Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, our constant, whining demands that prominent Muslims must disown the killers who take their religious texts too literally, that we have long ago lost our moral compass.
A hundred years of Western interference in the Middle East has left the region so cracked with fault lines and artificial frontiers and heavy with injustices that we are in no position to lecture the Islamic world on human rights and values. Forget the Amalekites and the Persians and Martin Luther and the Caliph Abu Bakr. Just look at ourselves in the mirror and we will see the most frightening text of all.
Lannan speaker delayed in Canada
By THE NEW MEXICAN
September 22, 2005
U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday to allow Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation’s readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night.
According to Christie Mazuera Davis, a Lannan program officer, Fisk was told that his papers were not in order.
Davis made last-minute arrangements Wednesday for Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s daily news show, Democracy Now!, to interview Fisk via satellite from a television station in Toronto. He appeared on a large screen onstage at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
The controversial British journalist, who is based in Beirut, filed many eyewitness reports on the U.S. invasion of Iraq and criticized Western reporters for “hotel journalism ,” a phrase he coined to describe correspondents who covered the war from heavily fortified hotel suites and offices.
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