Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 16th, 2008

Incursion into the Old World. Persia 4th century BC (Ch. 1)

The novel is about a King of Persia at the time of Alexander The Great.  This King is I.

The actual king was not strictly a legitimate descendent to the throne of Persia. He acceded to the power through the treachery of the castrated Grand Vizier who also had assassinated his master King Artaxasta III by poison.  The Vizier wanted to govern through his appointed protégé, one of the descendent of the monarch family, but the newly appointed King poisoned this Vizier the same night of his coronation.

The intelligence sources of Alexander informed him that the Kingdom of Persia is going through a difficult transition period of uncertainties and probable chaos.  It would have been a wiser policy to wait and see the outcome of the transition and study the character of the definitive new Monarch, but the impulsive and impatient Alexander just needed an excuse to be on the move. 

Alexander had just totally destroyed the crown city of Thebe in Greece, the oldest, the most learned and most courageous city among the cities, simply because he defeated its uprising against his rule.

Alexander shipped out with his thirty thousand soldiers when he was twenty. His army was battle tried and mostly illiterate. The former Kings of Persia knew about the intentions of Phillip and of the recent preparations of Alexander years before the invasion occurred.

The new King of Persia is young, about twenty six years old. He is a good looking giant for his time, with large dark eyes. He has new concepts of waging wars. At this age, waging wars are more attractive and exciting endeavors than anything else.

The real name of the king is Artaxasta IV but we will call him (Artax) for short; we will also call Alexander (Alex) since the two heroes will become our buddies in this story.

 Artax had advance intelligence of Alexander planning and the location and timing of his landing on the Turkish shores. The myths and feats of Alexander have crossed the Aegis Sea for some time; although Alexander was dabbed as “Iskandar The Mad Wild Dog” (IMWD) in the Persian court many speculations on Alexander motives and determination were the main topics in the court of the king and in most of the courts of governors in the annexed countries to Persia. 

Artax himself was most excited to have personal correspondence with Alex; he desired to sit down with Alexander and negotiate an honorable deal but his position of power was still very fragile and shaky among the hundreds of governors in the provinces and the military older hierarchy.   Obviously, Alexander generated enthusiasms in the Old Persian World.  This world enjoyed stable political and social systems, especially the utmost boredoms that daily exacting routines have been vexing the new Persian King into lethargy.

 

Artax had two reasons to allowing Alex to wander for a time in his kingdom. Besides the personal reasons, Artax already planned to launch a counter offensive, conquer Greece and discover the wild young western world.  Artax agreed with his most experienced general, a Greek mercenary, that the best tactic would be to retreat before Alexander army leaving a scorched land before the Greek/Macedonian advancing troops. Unfortunately, most of the traditional generals of the Persian feudal system would not swallow this infamy: Persia was by far the most powerful and richest kingdom in the entire world and the retreat strategy before a ragtag army was impossible to swallow.

Artax had to temporary bend to his generals but had already decided that he will allow Alexander a partial victory on their first major encounter to get to know better his charismatic opponent.  King Artax honored the rebellious generals to lead the battle against Alexander; the only condition was that the opposing armies should be of equal size: the Greek had to learn first hand to respect the determination, fearlessness, and chivalric high moral standing of the Persian civilization.

 

Invasion of the Old World

 

At the battleground of Issus Artax did not order a retreat but simply withdrew from the battle field, a decision which carried the consequence of a major sizeable section of personal guards to follow the Monarch by due form.  The Persian army was defeated and had to disperse haphazardly.  Artax failed to take into account that the Macedonian army was principally in for the loot.  The priority for Alexander to please his army was to move ahead quickly and loot the Persian war treasury stored in Damascus.  The wealth that the King of Persia carried in his trunks, at his first encounter with Alexander, was a thousand times greater than all the wealth and credit that Alexander could manage to secure in Greece before he started his interminable campaign of invasion and devastation.

This bounty opened the way to Egypt.  Artax had plenty of power and reserves to stop the advance of Alexander but he needed some time to reorganize his belligerent army and get hold of real power and strengthen his legitimacy.  Artax then withdrew to Babylon in present Iraq and patiently followed the gathered intelligence on Alexander’s inroads and victories.

“Farewell Beirut”, by Mai Ghoussoub (Part 2, November 16, 2008)

Note: Paragraphs in parentheses are my own interjections.  The names and characters in Mai’s manuscript are not fictitious; she personally eye witness the stories.

 

The main theme in “Farewell Beirut” is “revenge” and the associated concepts of honor, genocides, nationalism, heroes, traitors, martyrdom, hate, love and the fundamental human emotions that might be interpreted differently through the ages, periods and civilizations but where the moral values of wrong and right should not be personal matters of point of vues.

In part one I related the stories of “Um Ali”, “Said”, “Abu Firas”, and “Hashem”.  This part would be more related to fundamental questions that Mai Ghoussoub tried to struggle with and to investigate moral issues. But first, I present the story of Fadwa.

“Fadwa” was sent overseas in 1916 in order to avoid famine and be married to Salem.  In those years parents sent their children by sea supposedly destined to America because they paid high fees but the ship Captains landed them instead in Africa telling them “We reached America, get down” and thus many Lebanese ended in Africa and kept sending letters to their folks not daring to acknowledge their wrong destinations and parents resumed sending people to “America”.  Fadwa’s mother reminded her daughter that she is from a much higher social stratum than her future husband Salem and that Fadwa should remind her husband of that difference.  Fadwa landed in Ghana (Africa) and begot five boys and one girl and she expected Salem to worship her for giving him so many boys.  Fadwa refrained from mingling with the Lebanese and Syrian families on account that she is of a higher level and had many helpers at home.  When Ghana got its independence Fadwa was sent back to Lebanon with all her children for fear of reprisals.  At the airport, the immigrating ladies made sure that Fadwa overhears their conversations that Salem was cheating on her and that he had married an African girl and has African offspring.  Salem joined Fadwa a month looking much older and deprived of wealth; but he didn’t expect the hatred and all consuming feeling of revenge that were eating up Fadwa.  The couple slept in separate beds and Fadwa never called her husband by his name or even faced him; Salem was the “He” or the “decrepit old man”. Salem’s old friends were admonished never to pay him further visits. Salem was homesick to Ghana because he spent most of his life there and the family surrounding was not cheerful.  Fadwa never smiled and children were scared of her outbursts and rigidity.  When Salem became handicapped, Fadwa confined him for perpetuity in the house and never cooked his preferred dishes and locked on the sweets and chocolates on grounds that they are forbidden to his health.  Salem died miserably.  Fadwa died shortly after Salem, totally frustrated and a very unhappy old lady that could not feel that the fruits of her revenge were satisfactory.

Mai returned to visit Lebanon after the civil war.  She is repainting her apartment to erase the slogans that militias have painted over the walls; she kept the slogan “Those who teach us lessons in moral values are hypocrite and insolent”. In the seventies, saying that a person is sure of his opinion was a bad connotation of someone who refuses to detach from traditions.  It was a period when moral issues were not absolute; a person had to take into consideration the environment, the period, and all the facet of the story.  Opting for neutral stands were cherished values. That was fine and dandy until you are confronted with these sample accidents: thousands of women raped in Bosnia, racist gangs killing whole families in London, cutting off the sexual parts of a 4-year old girl by its family living in Paris according to customs.  Then you realize that wrong and right are no longer personal opinions.  Vaclav Havel said “The concepts of justice, honor and disloyalty are palpable nowadays”

A chapter compared the act of martyrdoms of the young 16 year-old Lebanese girl Nouha Samaan against the Israeli invaders in South Lebanon and Flora in 10th century Andalusia (Spain). (Between 1983-87 at least 3 young girls committed suicide acts against the Israeli forces of occupations, such as Sanaa Mheidley, before the young males replaced women). In Flora’s period Spain was ruled by the “Arabs” and mostly the Moslems from Morocco and it enjoyed a long period of prosperity and cultural development and tolerance for other religions and ethnic immigrants.  The mother of Flora was Catholic and her father a Moslem and they lived in Cordoba. By the age of 16 Flora became a ferocious, one sided Catholic zealot; she proclaimed in front of the tolerant judge that the Prophet Mohammad is a cheat and the devil.  The judge had the right to execute her but let her go.  Flora would not desist. She associated with the bigot preacher Yologious who claimed that the educated Catholics have taken the road to perdition: instead of focusing their readings solely on the Bible “they are reading literary manuscripts, scientific books, learning to write well and composing poems”.  Many young disciples of Yologious were harangued to sacrifice their lives for Catholicism and finally Flora had to be executed.  At that time Europe needed “martyrs” while the Moslems were tolerant.  In this century Europe stopped commemorating its “martyrs” while the Arab and Moslem World need “martyrs” for their struggle. (To be continued)

A Nation, a State, or a Redundant community? (November 17, 2008)

 

There are over 190 States recognized by the UN.  How many of these States can we establish to constitute Nations? Since the 19th century till today the world experienced “Nationalist” ideologies and most of the resistance movements to foreign invaders claim to be national resistance.  I will attempt to define the elements that characterize claim to a Nation by first enumerating what I consider to be Nations and then fine tune the progressive synthesis to capture the main characteristics.

Since antiquity and going strong till now I have in mind the following nations as category 1: China, India, Iran, and Egypt.  From the Medieval Age till now we have category 2: Russia, France, England, Sweden, Mexico, Morocco, and Turkey.  From the Renaissance till now we have category 3: USA, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain.  In the last century we accumulated the following nations in category 4: Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Norway, and maybe Canada.

The recent list of nations suggests that size of the population and then the size of the land are big factors.  I listed Canada for two reasons: the size of the land and the fact that the USA is guaranteeing its independence and economical prosperity.  The nations in category 4 are large enough in human and natural resources that they may survive blockades or natural calamities for an extended period if no external assistance is offered.  The large islands such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia are self contained and managed to form a rather homogeneous population in culture and tradition.

The nations in category 3 have earned their status as nations through arm struggle and reconstitution based on language and common culture.  The nations in category 2 have proven their endurance as entities through arm struggle and countless battles and revolutions to unify the population under one banner and one language.  Nations in category 1 are prime nations that constituted the foundations for all cultures and civilizations.  Ancient Iraq of the Babylonian, Assyrian, and Acadian civilizations could not hold their empires (which included the “Fertile Crescent” City-States in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) long enough without serious interruptions to be included as a nation.  Present Iraq had the potentials in human and natural resources for being inducted a full nation if it had avoided the invasions of the USA through democratic processes.

Thus, what are the elements that enhance the constitution of nations?

First, the geographic location with natural borders (such as deserts, high mountain ranges, large rivers) that limited foreign incursions, until our modern times.  (Islands such as England and Japan are prime examples)

Second, the construction of transport infrastructure to encourage trade and communication among communities.

Third, a formal and central language even if not all the population speaks it.

Fourth, a formal and central religion within a diversity of religions and sect.

Fifth, frequent arm struggles that unite the population under one banner and one central government.

Sixth, size of the resources in population and land that permit renewal of the energy after calamities and warfare.

 

If I missed a criterion, please remind me. For now I have listed 23 nations and I can foresee nations in the making such as Ukraine, Argentina, Poland, Viet Nam, Thailand, Mali, Philippines, and Malaysia which might enlarge the list to 31 nations. Yes, we have rich European States such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland.  Yes, we have a few oil rich States such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Sudan, and Algeria but the stability of these societies for the duration are doubtful for now.  Maybe Algeria is a strong candidate with the guarantee of the European Union for its stability.

In short, I decided that we have 23 nations and 8 more potential nations and 6 super Nations (USA, China, India, Russia, Brazil, and the EU). The European Union is definitely a new type of generalized nation based on common culture, a culture that the “other people” would have the task of defining explicitly through the actions and policies of the EU.  That is fine and dandy; how to reach World Peace and Stability?  How to secure a viable and durable future for the next generation? Check my article “Sabbaticals for thinking”.

 

Wild Goose Chase into the Old World: Persia 4th century BC

Preface

Ever since I have read the life story of the so-called Alexander the Great I have been restless. I keep considering alternative circumstances of how this mad and impossible incursion into the Old Eastern World could have been stopped. I felt that writing a historical fiction novel about this period would do me good. It should be historical because people are shying away from current news: They don’t listen to news, they don’t read newspapers, they have no ideas what is happening around them and yet, they feel superior to all politicians and far more capable.

It has to be a fiction because the so-called facts are bitter pills and not so reliable:

They are the facts of the victors and petty facts after all. I needed to delve and know more about the ancient world.  I need to imagine that a few of its leaders and scholars could have foreseen how political systems and technologies would have developed. How they would dare change the world according to their new visions; Whether they would have been better equipped, spiritually and morally to improve their world, people and environment, at their own snail pace

 

Alexander’s upbringing

 

Alexander was brainwashed since childhood.  He was made insidiously to believe by his mother Olympia that he was the descended of the God Hercules. His mother kept telling him that the Highest Priest of Egypt was convinced that he is the expected World King for the end of the Aries period (The Belier or two horned mammal).

Alexander was actually a bastard.  His father Phillip, King of Macedonia, strongly suspected that his wife Olympia has given birth to an illegitimate son. At the time, the kingdom of Persia extended from the borders of India to Turkey to Libya in Africa.  It included the current countries of Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and the coast of North Africa.

 

Background on the motives of Alexander

 

Alexander’s goal was to conquer Egypt and receive from its High Priest the crown reserved for the expected son of God so that he can secure legitimacy. As one of Alexander mentors explained it to him “If you want wealth you steal it by force and if you want legitimacy then you have to snatch it by the sword”.

As the story of history goes, while in Egypt, Alexander received a letter from the King of Persia. The King was proposing to Alexander to accept the coastal land of Turkey to settle their disputes. It seems that the King of Persia was in a chatting mood and he added a threat that if his proposal is turned down then he will keep retreating before Alexander’s troops, to the confines of his vast Empire until Alexander gives up the chase. The letter warned Alexander that this task would be impossible to carry through.

The King of Persia had just handed Alexander a sweet excuse and a new purpose.

So much for making sense to a hot headed and crazy young adversary! Alexander barely visited any city twice and intended to advance further east to China. 

 

What old “history books” told us

 

For thirteen years, Alexander barely backtracked in his wild push forward. His military travel took him beyond the Persian Empire to the Southern parts of Russia, Kashmir, Pakistan and parts of India.   As matter of fact, Alexander could not have advanced that far if not for the fresh recruits coming from Greece to replace the losses. The new recruits adored him and wanted to have a share of the glory. Alexander crossed deserts in summers, the highest mountains in winters and most of his soldiers died of hunger, thirst and diseases rather than from wars.  Alexander died in Babylon at the age of 30 something and his fiefdoms were divided among his officers after many years of a long civil war.

 

Lesser known stories

 

The officers of Alexander, battle worn, sick with disease and confused as to the purpose of this incomprehensible campaign, finally expressed bluntly their unwillingness to go any further and confronted him.  Alexander had to stop his advance and convinced his officers to navigate the Indus River and then reach Egypt by sea. To punish his officers for foiling his dream of reaching the confines of the ancient world, Alexander made his army to cross the southern desert of Persia for 60 days where thousands of soldiers died of thirst.

Sabbaticals for thinking and disseminating thoughts (November 16, 2008)

 

There is this system among universities to offer sabbaticals (a paid period of one year after seven years of work) for the tenured teachers and professors.  Most of the intellectuals spend the year teaching in other universities abroad in order to save more money, which should not be the purpose for taking sabbaticals.  I am not acquainted with the various conditions for sabbaticals but I would suggest to rich States to allocate funds for those intellectuals to focus the sabbatical year on studying and reading in other fields of their specialties, and most importantly, to disseminate their thoughts in writing or audio-visual mediums.  It would be of more interest to humanity if the researches in the sabbatical years are oriented toward human rights, the frequency of genocides, the environment and those fields that need closer attention for our survival in this century and the next.

I would suggest that instead of waiting seven years to offering a sabbatical that intellectuals be permitted the alternative of taking a semester off after two or three years of work for the following reasons. First, a whole year out of teaching might be counter productive for the teacher when he returns to his job emotionally and practically. Second, spending a whole year on subjects not connected to the specialty might not encourage much focus or sustain enthusiasm.  Third, the world is changing so fast and the moral values degrading so sharply that more minds should be involved in thinking out our difficulties at any period of time.  I also hope that the system of sabbatical be generalized to all kinds of professions.

            I believe that any one who re-publishes excerpts of manuscripts that contributed to changing emotional behavior of the reader and felt the need to disseminate the corresponding idea then he should be considered a co-author with rights.  It is our responsibility to read and disseminate what contribute to our survival and elevate the quality of our moral values.  The key work is to “disseminate” the need to think, think, and reflect as individuals away from the prevailing paradigms.

Juntas of theocratic castes: the under-developed States (November 15, 2008)

 

There is this general tendency of categorizing the under-developed States on the basis of their economical production of GNP or other criteria related to the economy such as infra-structure, mechanization, availability financial sources, mobility in transportation and others.  These kinds of categorizations are based on consequences and thus obliterate the need to investigate the sources of this under-developed condition.

I am inclined to believe that under-development is fundamentally a socio-political structure.  All the under-developed States adopt to certain extent “junta of theocratic caste” systems in governing and running their States.  I insist on the term theocratic because whatever predominant religions they claim to legally recognize these religions are at best skin deep.  The true religions and sects in under-developed States are variations on “paganism” (I am not offering a bad connotation for the term pagan but a description for the fundamental differences with the religious monotheist system in developed States, including atheism as a right).  Thus, the various tribes are attached to ancestral system of beliefs that are not officially or publicly stated.  These tribes or castes are closed autonomous communities that tend to regard the other tribes as enemies to the survival of their autonomies. The frequent occurrences of genocides in Africa or in Central Europe are fundamentally based on deep rooted theocratic caste systems.  Governments in under-developed States are formed of select castes and the rebellions, revolutions and genocides are outlets to re-shape the institutions according to the victors and governing under a different set of theocratic castes.

The State of Lebanon has undergone several civil wars because its 19 recognized theocratic castes refused to change to a modern structure for governing the State.  Most of the under-developed States that are not predominantly dominated by one recognized religion or sect will be facing recurring civil disturbances and thus lost opportunities for economical stability and development regardless of the magnitude of foreign infusions of money.

Late Mai Ghoussoub mentioned the case of Ngoyambi, a 17-year old of the Hutu tribe in Rwanda, who is facing trial for mass genocide against the Tutsi tribe. Ngoyambi has no remorse and claimed that he won’t be afraid “if the judge is from the Hutu tribe because then he would not be wrongly found guilty”

Before the colonial mandates in Africa or the Soviet hegemony in Eastern and Central Europe there was many skirmishes among the “tribes” but they were governed by social rules and very localized and of countable casualties.  Nowadays, these frequent skirmishes have acquired large scale magnitude in horrors and efficiency because of the despotism of theocratic juntas of castes after the “independence” of these States and the availability of efficient killing equipments sold by arm merchant connections that are themselves subsidized and managed by the superpower central States.

            The liberal press and TV networks, in the Western “civilization”, loath to pinpoint the causes of these genocides; they claim that they don’t comprehend how human kind can reach such a low level of behavior.  What don’t you understand?!


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2008
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