Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 25th, 2008

Re-defining histories (December 23, 2008)

I read the French magazine (Des Science Humaines) “In Human Sciences #13” which contained the following excerpts of current books related to history. I have this impression that it is not the content of an essay that is usually analyzed; it is mainly the connotation of the title of the essay that gives us leverage to assume what we want to confirm.

If you had not read the following books then, what could be the main underlying objective of the titles in this new wave for re-thinking history?

 “History does not teach us anything” by Paul Veyne

“Memory of wars versus war of memories” by Benjamin Stora

“The great history of Capitalism” by Eric Hobsbawm

“The conquering West” by Jerome Baschet

“Feudality of the rice fields” by Pierre Souyri

“How Nazism triumphed” by Ian Kershaw

“How to analyze Fascism” by Robert Paxton

“Passions as motor of history” by Marc Ferro

“Silence, we are killing” by Stephane Rouzeau

“A walk in medieval symbolism” by Michel Pastoureau

“Why civilizations die?” by Jared Diamond

 I will attempt a quick summary of a few of these books on history interpretations. It is important to know the symbolism in previous civilizations.

For example, the colors Black, Red, and Gold were the best colors appreciated in antiquity and the bear was the king of the animal world.

In Medieval Europe, the color blue became the dominant color of prestige. When the coat was painted blue then it was classy; yellow and rusty connoted treachery and evil.  When a figure is shown in pictures wearing yellow or shown as a redheaded person or with red beard then, the character represented a bad individual.

The Medieval Christian Church in Europe demoted the bear to the lowest level because this noble animal so cunningly resembled humans.

It is good to know that painters used lamps and candles instead of the well-lighted environment of today so that their strategy for wide pieces was to permit focused attention on a restricted part. Modern alterations for rejuvenating masterpieces are not taking into account the ancient lighting environment or the techniques of the famous painters.

Medieval Europe did not end at the start of the Renaissance period,  but extended its tradition and concepts way till the French Revolution.  For example, the feudal lords did not meddle with the peasants’ jobs in the fields but maintained justice in their domains.

Production doubled as was the case with population, and this combined social and economic re-organization led to expansionist policies due to increased production.

First, increased production paved the way into the successive Crusade campaigns, then the “Reconquista” of Spain from the Moors in Andalusia.

The invasions of India, Brazil, and the Americas with the supervision, planning, and total consent of the Roman Catholic Church opened huge markets.

The conquistadors’ goals were to acquiring fiefdoms in overseas lands as was practiced in their homelands.  When the notion of central State planning was initiated then, the European nations built on the medieval social and political structure until the industrialization era.

Capitalism was on the verge of collapsing several times but was saved in extremism when communism came to power in Russia in 1917 and the second time with the collaboration of the former Soviet Union during WWII against Nazi Germany.

Fascism and Nazism came to power with the help of the conservative political parties and the big industrial businesses.  The majority of the people had no idea that their conservative representatives were about to side with monsters.

These facts are occurring again and again everywhere there is a fascist dictatorial regime. (Conservatism and industrialists are always ready to ally with the devil as long as the movements for human rights and workers rights do not come to power)

Nazism, communism, and Roman Catholic Church have the same structure and the fundamental philosophy based on ecumenism (universal doctrine), symbolism, ex-communications, retaliation when members jump parties, persecuting freedom of expression, and maligning the other believers and ideologies.

Is a unified version of a State history a serious alternative for forcing a national identity?

History is a subjective story for official States’ memory: it relies on a few selective dates, subjective documents, wars and heroes so that States can reconstruct collective and unified memories in order to recuperate a national moral legitimacy after the political and legal recognition by the UN.

We might as well offer a coherent structure for the story and refrain from boasting that we are seeking truth.

Slave trade, colonialism, war of independence, memory of wars, heroism, culture of war, stigmatization of immigrants, reclamation of apologies, and constructing memorial sites, are fundamentally political discussions based on subjective history accounts.

Repentance or public apologies are strategic decisions in the higher up echelons, but resentments in the heart are never closed or experienced closure after centuries.

 Torture has its rules: never to leave traces on the victims’ bodies and thus, executions are done by hanging or immersion in water, rape, and electrocution.

In every revolution, war of independence, expansion campaign, or recent preemptive wars or civil wars the number of victims is never collected accurately. Sort of what if the standard deviation is a hundred thousand in casualties? 

Class performance


I was excellent in French composition during my classes of “sixieme” and “cinquieme” and the French teachers were amazed with my mastery of the language and imagination; I was much better than the French students and they believed that I was being aided greatly in my essays but this impression was totally unfounded.  In the class of “sixieme” my French teacher visited my folks to ask them not to aid me with my French composition; he had no idea that my parents had no real schooling, at least in French, to be of any help. I recall very well the subject of the essay; it was about our feeling back to school after a long summer vacation and I wrote and wrote and filled three pages.  I never could retrieve this piece of writing.

I was poor in English and my folks assigned me “supplementary English lessons” at home by my teacher Mr. Sahab, a Palestinian by origin. Ironically, English is the language I exclusively I adopted to write even though French and Arabic should have been normally my preferred choices if I didn’t end up in the USA for an extended period.

Surprisingly, hard as I try I do not recall my class of “quatrieme”, who were my teachers and not even where it was located.  In the class of “troisieme” I did well and succeeded in both the French and Lebanese public examinations the “Brevets”.  The class of “seconde” started well in modern math and my math teacher was overwhelmed with my tests and homework but then my performances deteriorated quickly in graphical algebra and how to interpret equations and the parameters graphically. The class of “seconde” is the most valuable and critical year in math, physics and chemistry and the hardest of all years because the methods are different and the materials new.  We had a very ugly and deformed teacher for our French literature class and he mostly wrote on the blackboard and we had to re-copy what he had written.


Israel offensive war of 1967


It was in 1967 that Israel ravaged the Arab States of Egypt, Syria and Jordan within less than 10 days.  We had a French cleric “Brother or frere” (Irene), possibly from Czechoslovakia, who taught us chemistry doubled with the responsibility of class “mentor” which means he would deliver half an hour discourse at the start of the day at 7:30 on religion and other moral issues.  Irene once delivered at least two sessions to prove “scientifically” that Jesus died on the cross and that he resurrected from the dead; it was if he was scared of St. Paul admonition that “If Christ has not resurrected then Christianity has no foundation”.  Irene was tall, blond, powerful and well built and snow skied; he once gave a ravaging blow to Khalil, the classmate sitting next to me on the bench; supposedly Khalil mocked Irene during study time but I was not there to witness the affair.  

This Brother was mainly pro Zionist and insisted on illuminating us on the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi camps (to convince us of the necessity of a Zionist State) and forecasted that the Arab armies would be vanquished in 1967.  For some reason this religious cleric alienated me when he mocked me during class breaks for not participating in group sports; I thus had the opportunity to rebut his notion on trioxide CO3 and told him in front of the whole class that what is describing is erroneous because this element is unstable which got his attention and renewed appreciation of me.

I had no idea what this 1967 war was about and when I was told that it is a war between the Jews living in Palestine and the Arabs then I was under the impression that the Jews always lived in Palestine.  French colonialism was keen on distorting political and historical facts and focused on French history and geography.  Since there is no conversation in my family and none with my colleagues at school I was as dumb in politics in general and especially local and regional politics.  I remember that we painted our windows blue for a day and the war was over.




December 2008

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