Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 13th, 2010

The all-time freest spirit: Humanist Montaigne

The French essayist Michel Eyquem, known as Montaigne (1533-1592), died a century after the Americas were “discovered”:  He read and heard eye-witness accounts of what pains, suffering, and crimes against humanity the America Indians have been submitted to.

He wrote in his Essays (Book 3):

“Everyone labels barbarian behaviors, customs not of his own usage or habit observed in other tribes or new people.”  This is pretty relevant in all generations, in all ethnic people, and in all religions.  This is valid for the European, the Americans, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the German, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Russians, the Catholics, the Moslems… in every decade and century, all the way to our “modern time”.

Every colonial power imposed their own customs and system of beliefs on “barbarians” they invaded and then exploited to replenish empty crown treasuries.

Montaigne was the eldest of five boys and three girls and inherited the estate of Montaigne. In this 16th century, smack in Europe Renaissance and religious wars between the Protestants (Calvinists, Anabaptists, and Huguenots of France) and the Catholics of papal Rome, the French humanist Montaigne wrote:

”I try to get moving.  Life is movement of matters and bodies; it is an imperfect action of its essence and deregulated.  I work at serving life.  I brag to meticulously embracing the commodities of life and I find but wind.  But are we not partners of the wind?  The wind howls, is agitated, does not desire stability or solidity.  Vanity is the wisdom of the wind and mankind.”

In 1571, Montaigne decided to retreat from politics, the court, and social responsibilities but the isolation was short-lived:  In 1572, the regent of France, Catherine of Medici, fomented the religious massacre of St. Barthelemy against the Huguenots all over France.

Bordeaux in the Perigor province was the bastion of the Huguenots Protestants.  Catholic Paris clamped down on the Huguenots several times.  Montaigne wrote:

I am Christian in the same title as I am from Perigor.”

Montaigne didn’t give religious belief any weight surpassing the reality of existence and communication among people and daily trade.  King Henry IV, the contemporary and friend of Montaigne converted to Catholicism in order to be crowned King of France. Historians coined this phrase to Henry IV: “Paris is worth convertin.”, but it is not true that he said it

Montaigne tours Europe for a year in 1580.  He travelled in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy and had to cut his trip short as he was elected mayor of Bordeaux for two years.  Montaigne said in the introduction of his Essays:

I do not teach; I tell stories.”

What follows are a few quotations from Montaigne that demostrate his humanistic tendencies:

Mankind has no communication whatsoever with his entity

“Human eyes perceive things only through the forms of their knowledge

“I like my friend La Boetie (Montaigne’s colleague in the Bordeaux city parliament) because he is what he is; because I am what I am…”

“He may be as wise as he wishes to be; but finally, he is a man:  That he is more archaic, more miserable, and more of the void.”

Wise principles cannot impress upon our natural conditions

Note:  Leonor was the only daughter of nine who survived to beget Montaigne’s grandchild named Francoise de la Tour Montaigne in 1591, a year before he died.

The US military presence is leaving Iraq next year.  The US military involvement in Afghanistan is going to stop next year.  Open ground troops wars in the Middle-East without serious prior diplomatic and political involvement in that region cannot secure the interest of the US.  While the US got mindlessly into the muddy and dirty job of conquering the region by force; and without preparing the mind and soul of the people for convincing and valid alternatives, China has been filling the vacuum peacefully and efficiently.

The worst part is that the US prefers to run political negotiations in the region solo, except in military matters, and refuses the European Union and Russia any serious partnership in resolving the Middle-East dilemma.  How can this exhausted and lame superpower be able to resolve anything of such a magnitude on its own resources?  The US even failed resuming the direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians and felt helpless exerting the modicum of pressures on its vassal Israel to stopping expanding colonies in occupied lands.

The US having failed militarily to imposing its wants, the alliance of Iran and Syria demonstrated that they are the real regional players in the Middle-East.  Iran, Syria, and Turkey are the major players in Iraq and Lebanon.  Iran is slowly but surely displacing exhausted and diminished Pakistan as the most powerful regional power in Afghanistan.  Iraq can only be governed by the joint agreement among Turkey, Iran, and Syria. 

The US has retained the weakest regional players: First, Saudi Arabia does not even dare allowing its army to getting involved in Yemen:  The fragile Wahhabi Monarchy doesn’t want to open the window for military coups once its military becomes virulent and excited; second, Egypt is barely able to feed half its populous citizens (65 million) and was impotent resolving the case of Gaza.  Egypt has lost its influence in Sudan (for over 50 years) and allowed Sudan to be partitioned instead of catering to its stability and safeguarding its southern flanks.

The US, by giving the impression that it will side with its puny vassal of Israel against Turkey, has lost the confidence of the Turkish people.  Turkey was the key regional power that the US could count on during the Cold War against the Soviet Union.  With the overthrowing of the Shah regime in Iran, Israel and the US are impotent in exercising any convincing pressures to any kinds of negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria.  I guess the US would prefer that the inevitable revolts in the “moderate” Middle-Eastern States happen now before its ground troops vacate the region next year.

This geopolitical overview was necessary to discussing the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians dilemma.  The US has usurped the International Court, for investigating the assassination of ex-Rafic Hariri PM, by using it as a political weapon to destabilizing Syria and Lebanon.  That is the vast opinion and impression in this region.  The UN is pressuring the International Court (IC) not to deliver the records and documents of its hearing with the 33 false witnesses to the Lebanese government.  Thus, Lebanon has no choice but to re-open its investigation with these false witnesses in order to be forewarned and convinced about the “political” preliminary accusations of the IC that might destabilize Lebanon’s fragile unity.

Syria has never received any tangible concessions from the US or Israel to resuming seriously negotiations.  The US has always delivered tangible preconditions to Israel before the start of any negotiation (in arms, financial support, and political backing).  The people and government in the Middle-East are not stupid to falling for the hundredth time with the pressuring slogan “take advantage of whatever the US can deliver before the preliminary election!” 

So far, the US is unable to changing its policies in the Middle-East for its own interest while all the facts and evidences of changing times are blowing in its face.




October 2010

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