Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 5th, 2016

Why revolutionaries are born from well-off middle classes?

The brother of the hanged Alexander: Lenin

Alexander refused to be pardoned by the Tsar and he was hanged at age of 20.

Lenin or Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov was born in 1870 at Simbrisk from a well-off family with house maids serving the large family of 8.

Vladimir was the third in line and his father was a mathematics professor before he was appointed inspector of the educational public schools in this province.

Simbrisk was situated on the Volga River  and in the Kazan kanak, large enough for 43,000 inhabitants.

And it was one of the relative peace periods in Russia.

The Islamic State as an ordinary insurgency

The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

The attention heaped on the Islamic State in Western media and public debate has centered primarily on two issues: its religion and its violence.

On both fronts, the group has left observers aghast with its extremism. Those analysts focusing on the religion try to make sense of the group’s distinctive brand of Islamic ideology as well as the “psychopaths” who choose to become its followers.

Those fixated on the group’s violence posit that its seemingly unlimited capacity to brutalize and terrorize has few parallels among violent organizations, so much so that “even al-Qaeda,” as is repeatedly pointed out, has disavowed the group.

Nevertheless, as Marc Lynch recently argued in the Monkey Cage, putting the Islamic State in a broader comparative perspective shows that the group is hardly unique among armed non-state organizations. This in turn points to ways scholars and observers might most productively study and write about the group.

Much of the media coverage and popular discussion of the Islamic State has focused on the group’s atrocious acts of violence. In their orchestrated murders and in the savvyness with which they broadcast them to the world’s horrified viewers, they are perhaps unmatched in the present age.

And yet, to portray the Islamic State as uniquely brutal or unrivaled in its savagery is to forget our unfortunate history – even recent history – that is filled with episodes of extreme violence against civilians committed in the name of some political goal.

One would be hard pressed to argue that the Islamic State’s actions are more unconscionable than those of the Khmer Rouge who created the killing fields of Cambodia, or Renamo of Mozambique whose fighters specialized in the kidnapping, rape and mutilation of women, men and children, or the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon in the Bosnian war; or that the group’s staged beheadings are any more appalling than the thousands of “forced disappearances” conducted behind the scenes in the Salvadoran conflict.

The only difference between cases such as these and the Islamic State when it comes to violence is that the latter operates in the age of social media and uses it to the fullest for shock-and-awe effects.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in mobilizing its own interpretation of theology as part of an ideological-political campaign.

The Darul Islam movement sought to found an Islamic state in Indonesia following independence from the Netherlands in 1948, and its fighters launched violent rebellions in various parts of the archipelago.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda and its predecessor, the Holy Spirit Movement, claimed as their goal the establishment of a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments; the LRA is now responsible for one of the longest running conflicts in Africa.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in its transnational vision to create an Islamic state that rejects existing borders: Darul Islam reemerged in the 1990s in the form of Jemaah Islamiyah, which proclaimed a mission to create an Islamic state spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand and the Philippines.

The Islamic State certainly is not unique among violent organizations in developing networks of traffickers, dealers, and middlemen to secure enormous wealth from natural resources like oil, and the group is typical among rebel and terrorist organizations to capitalize on the political and institutional weaknesses of host states to launch military operations and take over territory.

Neither does the Islamic State stand out for successfully creating its own civilian governance system in towns it secured.

In places like Raqqa, Syria, it may have collected taxes, built infrastructure, posted traffic police at intersections and kept bakeries running while enforcing strict social codes with threats of severe punishment, including public execution, for deviant behavior.

And so have many other militant non-state groups, as my ongoing research on rebel governance shows. In addition to creating sophisticated governance structures, the Naxalites of India ran their own banking system;

the Eritrean rebels ran a pharmaceutical plant while operating a humanitarian wing that worked with international NGOs;

their neighboring Tigrayan rebels conducted extensive land reform; and UNITA of Angola ran a mail system replete with its own internationally-recognized stamps, all in the midst of intense violent conflict against established states.

Like the Islamic State, many groups, including Uganda’s National Resistance Army and Nepal’s Maoist insurgents, had a code of conduct for their fighters and laid out punishments for violations that included execution for the worst offenders.

Critics may charge that the Islamic State, far from ordinary, is in fact extraordinarily unique in its vision to fundamentally reconfigure the international political order itself as part of its all-encompassing goal to create an Islamic caliphate.

There is no doubt this is a radical aspiration that surpasses other organizations in terms of its revolutionary zeal and global scale. It remains, however, just that – an aspiration – and again, the history of conflict has seen no shortage of aspirations that were deemed as threatening, revolutionary and fantastical in their own time.

Talk is talk, and it is interesting and, as I argue below, indeed important to examine what groups claim about themselves. But putting explanatory stock into the ideologies without considering the instrumentalism behind them can do more to mislead than to inform.

The point here is not to downplay the threat posed by the Islamic State or to “normalize” its behavior by highlighting the group’s ordinariness among violent political groups. It is simply to stress that comparatively speaking, the group is not as exceptional as observers and the media have often characterized it.

Putting the Islamic State into a broader theoretical and historical perspective – that is, beyond the frame of “Islamist terrorism” and beyond the post-9/11 period – is important because there are clear dangers in hyperbolizing the group’s own claims to exceptionalism.

To unduly emphasize the Islamic State’s distinctiveness is to distort its threat, inadvertently boost its legitimacy, and worst of all, to directly play into its leaders’ hands.

Whatever the Islamic State has achieved so far, history has seen much of it before in other contexts. Knowledge of these other contexts can therefore inform both scholarship and policy on this pressing issue.

That the Islamic State’s behavior is so consistent with that of so many other militant organizations – and this, despite all its efforts to establish itself as the only true vanguard of an Islamic State in the making – strongly suggests there is a strategic logic underlying the common behavior. This insight in turn suggests some scholarly approaches to understanding the group may prove more productive than others.

First, the banality of the Islamic State among violent political organizations suggests scholars should first and foremost treat the group as a political actor and seek to identify its political goals, capabilities, incentives and strategic calculations. In other words, scholars ought to engage in actor-centric analysis.

Such an approach has reaped enormous benefits in conflict scholars’ collective efforts to understand phenomena such as insurgency, violence, rebel social service provision, war duration and termination, and foreign interventions in conflict.

It is familiarity with this body of work that makes me not at all surprised that the Islamic State reportedly provides health services, taxes local residents, has an elaborate organizational structure (which looks not so dissimilar from the organigrams of other insurgent groups), enforces strict discipline among fighters and is selective in whom it kills. These are classic behavior on the part of strategic armed non-state actors with some amount of military strength.

All of this means, second, that religion-centric analysis may be less useful, even as regards a group that bases its raison d’être on a religious ideology and whose leaders claim to do everything in its name.

The argument here is not that religion is unimportant – it clearly matters because it helps mobilize people around the group, attracts a stream of new recruits and threatens Islamophobic governments and people in the West in just the way the group might wish.

Careful analysis of its religious ideology is worthwhile in the same way analysis of other war-fighting instruments, from violence, social service provision and propaganda, to alliance formation and compliance with international law, has been highly illuminating in making sense of rebel group behavior.

But always, scholars examine these tools not as an end in and of themselves, but as part of a larger effort to understand how armed group pursue their wartime objectives, recognizing that battlefield fights are but one dimension of conflict.

Likewise, any analysis of the Islamic State’s ideology that does not ask why the group chooses to formulate and propagate its ideology the way it does risks becoming, in spite of itself, detached from politics, and potentially serving as an uncritical endorsement of the group’s own claims.

An actor-centric analysis would have us asking not simply what the Islamic State does and says, but also why, or for what ends.

It sees even extremist, seemingly fanatical leaderships like the one heading the Islamic State as rational and strategic, constantly making decisions based on an assessment of what course of action would best enable the group to achieve its objectives of increased military strength and control of territories, markets, ideas and people.

After all, the Islamic State, when expedient, readily put ideology aside and made alliances with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

Critically, an actor-centric analysis has the Islamic State leaders exercising full agency over religion, whereas a religion-centric analysis would have religion driving the Islamic State leaders and their rank-and-file as if they were all but blind adherents – as if their ideology were in fact God-given rather than meticulously and tactfully crafted and propagated by the the Islamic State leadership itself.

Finally, conflict scholarship suggests it would be prudent to avoid making unfounded assumptions about why the Islamic State fighters do what they do, and instead allow for diverse motivations.

Foot soldiers will all claim divine inspiration for their daily campaigns of killing and destruction – they can’t do otherwise if they wish to survive – but people may have joined the Islamic State for any number of reasons, including, certainly, religious conviction, but also adventurism, revenge, peer pressure, coercion, bribery and so on.

To conclude that the source of their behavior is their religious devotion is to vastly underestimate human agency and strategic faculties and to baselessly buy into their propaganda.

Not only so, attributing actors’ behavior to their religious or other identities is to revert unproductively to primordial thinking, which has long been abandoned by the bulk of scholars who specialize in identity politics – in fact, the rejection of primordialism is arguably one of the few ideas around which there is now something of a scholarly consensus in this area of inquiry.

People do not do what they do because they are Muslim or Christian or Serb or Hutu, or because Islam or Christianity or any ancient ethnic hatreds dictates them to; they do what they do because they think – note the agency – it helps them achieve specific objectives.

Again, religion-centric analysis would lead us down theological rabbit holes while ignoring the counterfactual question of whether or not actors would, under the same circumstances, behave any differently if they adhered to a different religion or ideology. The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

Scholars now know much about how violent non-state groups behave. They – and policymakers – should use that knowledge to understand groups like the Islamic State and not be sidetracked by its extremism or by those observers who fall right into its propaganda traps by lending credence to the group’s own claims of exceptionalism.

Reyko Huang is an assistant professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Andrew Bossone  shared this link by Kareem Shaheen

The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.”


The many examples of the Islamic State’s banality suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

Should you get to know these Badass Environmentalists?

In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, we’re celebrating 8 extraordinary women who have continuously advocated and rallied for our earth.

These women work endlessly to implement policies and enact change to preserve and protect our environment — from waterways, forests, access to clean air, oceans and mountains to the precious wildlife that reside within these ecosystems.

Posted:  April 22/2015

The challenges we face today, especially with the onset of climate change, have opened new opportunities in the environmental sector that has long been filled by men. The progress that has been made by these remarkable women is illustrative of just how dynamic the feminine power really is.


1. Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Goodall is considered one the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzees and ecology. It is hard to overstate the degree to which she has changed and enriched the field of primatology.

During her 55-year research study, she defied scientific convention by giving the Gombe chimps names instead of numbers, and insisted on the validity of her observations that animals have distinct personalities, minds and emotions. She has harnessed the power of the feminine, instilling such into every aspect of her work — from her research studies to her global work through the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots program, which aim to raise awareness and action for endangered species and vulnerable habitats.

Dr. Goodall has transformed the epistemological framework of how we study primates, and has exemplified immeasurable ecological integrity. She will forever be a leading voice in the environmental movement worldwide.

If you haven’t heard the exciting news yet, she is our keynote speaker at Emerging Live this year in San Francisco, and we hope you’ll join us to share in the energy of this legendary woman!


2. Julia Butterfly Hill

In 1997, Julia Butterfly Hill stormed onto the environmental activist scene in Northern California with her courageous 738-day protest living in an old-growth redwood tree, nicknamed Luna.

This act of civil disobedience saved the tree from being cut down by the Pacific Lumber Company and resulted in the raised international awareness for sustainable forest management techniques and the importance of establishing safeguards to protect old-growth trees.

Today, Hill continues her work as an activist, motivational speaker and founder of the Circle of Life Foundation, a non-profit that trains community leaders to enact social change.

Her invincible spirit is illustrative of the immense power that the feminine holds, and the tenets of her legacy — love, courage, devotion — are of immense significance and have made the environmental movement undeniably stronger.

“You, yes you, make the difference.” ~ Julia Butterfly Hill


3. Frances Beinecke

As the former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Frances has worked tirelessly across political spectrums to strategically develop and execute the organization’s program of work; focusing on curbing global warming, protecting our oceans and endangered ecosystems, developing a clean energy future, addressing toxic chemicals and greening our global economy.

Beinecke has been instrumental in igniting our global discourse on climate change. She was appointed in 2010 to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling by President Obama.

She co-authored The World We Create: A Message of Hope for a Planet in Peril. She is the recipient of the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award, and her environmental stewardship has been honored by numerous other environmental entities. She is an incredible woman and a force to be reckoned with.


4. Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, social activist, economist, speaker, professor and writer. She is of Ojibwe ancestry. She began her career in education on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota, and soon realized the injustices that many American Indians, especially women, faced, which led her to found the Indigenous Women’s Network.

She is also the founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project, which fights for the retrieval of 837,000 acres of land to their original native American owners. Passionate about Native Environmentalism, she leads Honor the Earth, a non-profit that raises awareness and funding for environmental injustices-such as climate change, renewable energy, and sustainable development.

Bold, brazen, and unrelentingly dedicated to our earth, Winona LaDuke is a leading global voice on environmental issues and sustainability for American Indians and Indigenous Peoples and communities everywhere.


5. Dr. Sylvia Earle

A National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, Dr. Sylvia Earle (dubbed “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker, “Hero for the Planet” by Time magazine, and an “environmental badass” by us here at Emerging Women) is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer.She has extensive experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and nonprofit organizations, and is the former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the 1960s, she fought to join male-only expeditions, and has since clocked 7,000 hours of diving, several of which were to record breaking depths. In addition to her PhD. from Duke University, she has 22 honorary degrees, has penned more than than 190 publications, and speaks all over the world, focusing on preserving oceanic biodiversity in the wake of climate change.

Thanks to Dr. Earle and her fearless curiosity we know more about our oceans today than ever before. Her lifetime of work has enriched us with a deeper understanding of how to live sustainably and symbiotically with marine life, and our oceans are healthier because of her commitment to environmentalism.

“The only thing that men can do down there that women can’t is grow beards.” ~ Dr. Sylvia Earle on gender equality and deep sea diving


6. Lois Gibbs

Environmentalism claimed Gibbs, perhaps even before she could claim it. In 1978, Gibbs discovered that her son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York, was built on a toxic waste dump. Investigations revealed that her entire neighborhood, named Love Canal, had been constructed on top of this toxic site. Lois took to her neighborhood and organized a grassroots movement and battled for years against state and federal government.

After years of fighting, nearly 1,000 families were evacuated and a massive cleanup of Love Canal began. Gibbs’ efforts led to the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, a superfund within the US Environmental Protection Agency which is utilized to clean up toxic waste sites throughout America.

Lois Gibbs went on to to form a grassroots environmental crisis center, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, where she currently serves as Executive Director. Love Canal is considered one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters, and Gibbs’ fearless heart and feminine leadership has transformed the way the U.S. handles toxic waste sites, and for that, our communities are healthier and safer.


7. Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard is arguably the most important proponent of environmental justice issues in communities of color in the country. She is founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a non-profit she created in 1988 to improve the environmental health and quality of life for communities of color in New York City.

Shepard also serves as an investigator for Columbia University’s Children’s Environmental Health Center and is working to open partnerships between researchers and clinicians and local community members to increase environmental health education and outreach.

Shepard was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a position she held from 2001-2003. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Heinz Award for the Environment, the Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and the Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization of Women.

She remains extremely active in the environmental justice field and lectures often at universities nationwide. Her environmental consciousness is one of integrity and is an amazing leader with a passion for fairness and justice for underrepresented communities that is unmatchable.


8. Laurie David

Laurie David burst onto the environmental stage in 2006 with her Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth. The film received international acclaim and is considered to be a catalyst for significantly increasing global awareness of climate change and for re-energizing the environmental movement. She serves as a trustee on the Natural Resources Defense Council, is the founder of the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and the creator of Earth to America!, a film raising environmental awareness with a comedic stance.

David is heavily involved in public education and advocacy campaigns, and is involved in lobbying the automotive industry and Congress to increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles with her creation of the Detroit Project.

Laurie David is a leading voice in the environmental movement and has utilized her unique position in the entertainment industry to promote and raise awareness of global environmental issues, amplifying participation and the accessibility of environmentalism.

The precursor of everything that a healthy and adventurous person can do in a short life: Jack London

I watched a documentary on Jack London, the precursor of what life should be for a healthy and adventurous person.

He was Not a wanted child and his mother tried to commit suicide when she was pregnant with him. He died at the age of 40 (1917) from renal failure: He was a heavy drinker (he is remembered in alcoholic anonymous session for saying “I can quit anytime I want”).  He suffered many ailments in his long sea trip in the Pacific Ocean, malaria, lack of vitamins, and the treatment on mercury products poisoned his blood. He and his second wife Charmaine had to shorten their round the world adventure and get treatment in Sidney.

During my 2 years stint in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to read most of the books of the local authors: Jack London, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Kerouac, Burroughs, Mark Twain….

Jack London wrote many novels and articles: The Apostate on the life of poor children in the beginning of the 20th century (an autobiography too), Call of the Wild, White fang, East End of London during the depression in 1903 (an excellent precursor for what George Orwell will expand on in Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm… of the life of homeless and the life of miners. And many novels on his sea voyage.

He worked since the age of 14 to supplement his family needs in various menial jobs in the industry. He was such a hard worker that the owner dismissed 2 employees who earned $40 each and paid London only $30.

At 16, he traded with illegal products after purchasing a canoe for $300 lent by his half sister. With plenty of hard cash, he got addicted to spend nights in bars. London lead the life of the homeless who travelled about the USA on foot and cargo trains and was jailed a month for homelessness.

He joined the Socialist Party and was a leading voice and wrote many articles on the situation in the USA and harangued the people everywhere he was. He sided with the Russian uprising in 1905.

At the age of 20, he joined about 1,000 adventurers during the Gold Rush in Alaska and noticed that the loners eventually died and survival is by connecting and making friends.

On his first attempt to the deep sea, his schooner leaked badly and the crew of 6 had to land in Hawaii for repair and refurbishing jobs.  Jack had to learn on board how to navigate from books he had on the boat because the designated captain turned out to be Not knowledgeable in deep sea. London took to surfing while waiting for the boat to be ready. He was welcomed by the US expatriate as a hero.

He was dispatched in 1913 to cover the revolution in Mexico and he changed side by supporting the intervention of Big Brother to institute Law and order and aided the US oil companies. He was heavily criticized for lambasting the Mexican guerrillas as assassins and war mongers. He had to resign from the Socialist Party.

He was the first ecologically minded person in running his farm (no fertilizers) and even his animals were sheltered in stone houses (Pig Castle). He was the first who began producing long movies, 7 of them, before Hollywood existed.

Jack married twice and had 2 daughters from the first marriage: His first wife divorced him after he spent an entire year covering the Russian/Japanese war in 1905. The Japanese were about to execute him when President Roosevelt warned Japan that the USA might engage in the war if London is Not released.

The second wife Charmaine joined him in all his adventure and wrote diaries of the trip around the world in sea and published them. She lost two in childbirth. The documentary didn’t tell what happened to Charmaine after Jack’s death.

London acquired a Kodak 3 and took abundant pictures everywhere he went and joined them in his books: These pictures are a history of the end of the 20th century and all these aborigine people he met in Polynesia and the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

He visited the island where Melville spent a long time (there were 12,000 people and when London landed, only a dozen lived in the village). He visited the tomb of Stevenson, another famous adventure precursor.

His publisher MacMillan refused to publish a photo of his smiling wife next to a naked aborigine and Jack wrote to him: “This is my wife, this is my photo, get on with it” And the picture was published.




December 2016

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