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Posts Tagged ‘Lighthouses

Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969): Vietnamese

Many famous nationalist leaders were not nationalist by choice.

For example, the Algerian prince Abdel Kader (1808-1882) was not destined to lead the first popular revolt against the new colonial power of France:  Abdel Kader was a mystic, Sufi, had done the pilgrimage to Mecca as a teenager with his father, and was deeply religious. The leaders of the  tribes elected him to be their Caliph at the age of 24 in order to lead the war against the French troops. After two decades of wars and over 100,000 of French troops amassed to quell the revolt with atrocious mass massacres, and no external support by the Ottoman Empire or any European monarchs, Abdel Kader surrendered and later became the staunchest supporter of France:  He worked hard to rally the Egyptians and clerics to the cause of the project of the Suez canal undertaken by the French government.

Another case is of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) who reluctantly lead the revolution to freeing all south America from Spanish colonialism in 1826. At 19, he married a Spanish girl (from Madrid), two years older than him, and he was deeply in love and decided to lead a normal life, like his dad did on his vast plantations.  Suddenly, Simon’s wife died four months later from fever and everything changed in his life.  He returned to Europe, Spain and France, on another long trip before he decided to return to Caracas (Venezuela).

Ho Chi Minh or “source of light“, one of the many aliases he used in his clandestine life, was born Nguyen Sinh Cung in Annam or north Vietnam; France was already the colonial power of the current Far East Asian States of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Ho Chi Minh didn’t finish his high school in 1909 for lack of finance and his father, a low civil servant at the French administration, was fired for alcohol abuse.  France had change the Vietnamese ideograms into Latin characters called “quoc ngu“.  In 1905, Japan had defeated Russia and the Vietnamese were flocking to Japan for education. Ho Chi Minh decided to go west and boarded a French merchant cargo; he worked in the merchant marine for two years as cabin boy and kitchen helper.

In China of 1912, Sun Yat Sen forced the emperor to abdicate.  Ho Chi Minh is in Marseille (France) in 1913; he is refused the application to attend the Colonial school forming administrators to France.  WWI starts and 92,000 Vietnamese are enlisted in this western war as replacement to French workers in factories and digging trenches.  Ho Chi Minh refuses to participate; he wrote to his Vietnamese mentor in France: “Destiny is reserving us surprises.  Within 4 months destiny of Asia will change.  The hell with those who decided to fight.  We have to wait calmly for the war to end.”

In 1916, Ho Chi Minh is in London and acquiring technical skills in electricity and mechanics.  The “Annamite patriots” are in Versailles in 1919 demanding to be freed from France colonialism.  Ho Chi Minh understood that independence will be earned by violent means and join the French communist party, recently adhering to the Comintern organized by Lenin in the new Russia Bolshevik regime. Ho Chi Minh  wrote: “ I like and respected Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots.”

Thus, Minh sided with the Lenin faction at the 3rd French International that gathered in Tour in 1919; he spoke saying: “The future of socialism is by allying to nationalist forces and taking greater interest in freeing colonized nations that are marching irresistibly toward independence.”

He is suffering famine in Paris but he publishes articles in French communist papers.  From Moscow of 1923, Dimitri Manouilski, commissar of agriculture in Ukraine, summons Ho Chi Minh to attend 18 months at the new communist university, designed to training members in clandestine activities. Ho Chi Minh is then a member of the Peasant International executive bureau, the Krestintern and attends the 5th International Congress in Moscow and sides with Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev against Trotsky (chief of the Red Army who was for an International revolution.)

In 1925, Ho is sent to Canton (China) to train and teach 300 Vietnamese communist refugees, among them is the future Prime Minister Pham Van Dong.  The Chinese communists, lead by Zhu Enlai, Mao Tse tong, and Wang Jingwei enter Shanghai before their ally the nationalists of Tchang Kai-check who foment a massacre against the communists inside the city and expels them.  Moscow is no longer supporting the Chinese Nationalists and Ho is recalled to Moscow.  Ho is sent to Bruxelles, Berlin, and Paris. In 1929, Ho reaches Thailand from Vladivostok and unites various small Vietnamese communist parties into one and appoints Tran Phu as secretary-general.

Ho suffers jails in Thailand and China for more than a year and manages to reach Moscow after crossing 7,500 kilometers that lasted 6 months.  Mao Tse Tong is firmly established in the Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. By 1933, Stalin started the purge: 30,000 army officers will be executed along with the communist leaders.  Ho is feeling the heat and obtains the permission to Joining Mao’s forces and met with a young Vietnamese historian Vo Nguyen Giap (the military mastermind in defeating the US forces in 1973).

In Vietnam of 1940, the Japanese sealed a deal with the French army faction allied to Vichy and are controlling all the air bases and the ports. Ho returns to North Vietnam and settles in a grotto, having carried a typewriter while crossing the frontiers; he eventually forms the Viet Minh and organizes the peasants.  Ho is actively contacting agents for arms and support.  Ironically, only the US comes to the rescue, supposedly to defeating the Japanese in Far East Asia after japan bombarded Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) in December 1941.

The leader of the Trotskyist communist faction, Ta Thu Thau, infiltrated to the north from his bases in south Vietnam; the Viet Minh captured him several times and was released by orders of Ho Chi Minh.  To making a long story short, Ho’s priority was a unified front in the north and decided to eliminate Ta Thu Thau saying: “He was a great patriot and we are crying him.  However, whoever does not follow the line I traced will be broken down.”   Ho tried hard to finding a peaceful resolution with the French and attended the conference in Fontainebleau during 1946 and spent several months revisiting cities and meeting old friends.

By 1951, Ho is receiving arms and financial resources from both China and Russia while the French troops are supplied by the USA. Ho finally defeats the 12,000 French army in Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  In 1955,  France abandons all of Vietnam to the US in order to focus its military resources against the Algerian national resistance.

Ho is now establishing the Viet Cong guerrilla and army to fighting the US troops in south Vietnam.  He died in 1969 as his emissary Le Duc Tho started the peace conference in Paris with Henry Kissinger.  The US will vacate Vietnam in 1973.  Ho Chi Minh spoke fluently four foreign languages: Chinese, French, English, and Russian.  The Chinese ancient philosopher Confucius was Ho’s spiritual master.

Note:  This topic was mainly extracted from the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali

Aristotle’s empiricism (-384-322): Got to experiment for facts

Three centuries before Aristotle, scholars studying sciences, also called philosophy, were mainly settled in coastal city in the Near-East such as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

You have  cities as Millet, Ephesus, Tyr, Sidon, in Sicily…Scholars have been questioning mythology and investigating into cosmology, natural physics, and rational logic.

Pythagoras (magical proportion of numbers corresponding to natural laws), Thales (cosmology), Heraclitus (living things are constantly in movement and changing), Parmenides (what we sense are moving illusions), and Empedocles.

Democritus had written: “Who commits injustice should be the most unhappy person:  We are ashamed for behaving badly.” Xenon is the master of rhetoric:  We can master the art of arguing on anything.

Platon moved from Athens to Megara where Euclid was settled, as many of Socrates’ disciples after Socrates opted to drink poison rather than go into exile.

Aristotle spent 20 years in Platon’s school in Athens, “Platon’s Academia“,  which hanged the directive: “You cannot be admitted If you don’t know geometry”.  Aristotle studied rhetoric and dialectic for a year in Isocrates’ school.

As Aristotle was born, Macedonia was expanding its territory under Amyntas III, grandfather of Alexander.

Aristotle lived in his native town of Stagira while his father Nicomac was the official physician of Amyntas in the Capital Pella

A few years later, Aristotle is playing with Philip (heir to the kingdom) and Antipater (later the regent of Macedonia and Greece while Alexander is pursuing his expansion in Asia).

Aristotle lost simultaneously, his father, mother, and Amyntas III of an epidemic.  He would write: “How come natural phenomenon return, after a cycle, to their original nature (for example clouds) while living creatures don’t?  Man must not be as necessary to the equilibrium of the universe and he just appears by pure hazard:  Your father’s birth does not necessarily engender your birth.”

One of his sisters, married to Proxenos adopts him and settles in Turkey facing the island of Lesbos.  Later, Aristotle would adopt Proxenos’ son Cleisthenes.

Cleisthenes would become a famous disciple and historian “History of the sacred war” in 10 volumes.  Alexander would torture and assassinate Cleisthenes:  he started mocking Alexander’s antics of considering himself a divinity.

It is a great loss to mankind because Cleisthenes would have left accurate eye-witness account of Alexander vast campaign.

At Alexander reached 13 of age, his father Philip demanded from Aristotle to be the preceptor of his son.  Three years later, Alexander felt that he has no patience for further study:  He wanted to join the military campaigns of his father.

One of the assignment of Alexander was to tame revolts in the other provinces in Greece; the ancient and illustrious city of Thebes was raised from the map; Thebes was built by the Phoenicians several centuries before Athens existed.

When Alexander became king, Aristotle visited the new monarch who didn’t care for his teacher’s counsels.  Mankind is lucky that Aristotle stayed in Greece instead of wasting time tending to Alexander’s caprices.

Aristotle developed a new mode for reasoning by syllogism; for example, all members of B are in A, or all members of C are in B, then, all members of C are in A.  He gathered 14 kinds of syllogisms; sort of modern math concept.

Only when observations through experiments contradict a conclusion can we revised one of the erroneous premises. Aristotle demanded from his disciple to list references of books and documents on every known subject of study.

He observed jointly with his disciples and experimented on phenomena.  He was interested in natural physics, cosmology, political constitutions and structures, animals (especially horses), botany, logic, ethics, poetics.

His disciple Theophrastus will become one of the first renowned botanist.

Aristotle believe in a general or collective providence, the “intellectual agent”, and not an individual providence that is the cause for running the universe but not the creator of the universe.

Aristotle opened a school in Athens, with additional funding coming from Antipater the regent of Macedonia, on a sanctuary called Lycian, thus the French name of Lycee for schools.

He used to teach while walking in the alleys between the arcade, called Peripatus, thus, the name given to his disciples the “peripatecians”.  The school lasted as Alexander was alive.

When the Athenians got the news of the death of Alexander, they forced Aristotle out.  Aristotle dies a year after Alexander and leaves a detailed testament.

The story goes that Aristotle’s disciple Theophrastus was in charge of preserving all the manuscripts.  The king of Pergamus intended for his library to rival Alexandria; thus, the son of Theophrastus hid the manuscripts in Scepsis so that the king of Pergamus won’t take them.

Apellicon of Teos sold the manuscripts to the Roman consul Sylla in 82 BC.   In 60 BC, Andronicos of Rhodes recopied the manuscripts and classify them in two major categories: Physics and after physics (meta physics).

Note 1:  There is this mania of opposing Aristotle’s positions with Plato’s, as if the two philosophers were foreign to one another and did not complement one another.

Plato’s school lasted 900 centuries:  The official Christian Church in Constantinople decided to close this “pagan” school around 550 AC.

Note 2:  Maimonides (12 years younger than Averroes and from the same city Cordoba) relied on Ibn Rushd’s works to perpetuate the rational and scientific trend.

Maimonides wrote: “We may dispense of Plato’s works:  Aristotle’s works suffice since they are the foundations and roots of scientific rational methods.  Aristotle’s works are difficult and many propositions cannot be comprehended without the commentaries and interpretations of Ibn Rushd.”

Note 3: This topic was mainly extracted fro the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali

The “Good man” of (Confucius 551-479): Practice moral values first then, study

“Young people should prove to be good sons in the family, polite and respectful in society, prudent and loyal, liking the company of good men.  After learning and applying these moral values, you feel you have energy to acquiring knowledge, then study and read.”

Thus, practice actions in applying moral values before contemplating studying for acquiring knowledge and skills. This is the educational method of Confucius, found in the first chapter of his manuscript “Discussions“, which is the only book historian are sure to be written by Confucius, among many attributed to him.

The next precept of Kongfuzi (Master Kong), renamed Confucius by the Jesuits in China, is:

“A man of quality eats moderately, requires no comfort in his house, is diligent in business, equitable in his opinions, cultivate doing what is right, and seek the company of wise people.  These qualities demonstrate that the man loves to study“.

The expression “Plenitude of humanity” is even more frequent in his book than the word “junzi” or man of goodness, which is a consequence for becoming a qualified good man.  The good man is necessarily above the elite class of the aristocratic members and feudal lords:  He has mastered determination by virtue, merit, and competence.

Zilu, one of the favorite disciples of Confucius asked: “Master, what would be your priority if you became monarch?”  Confucius replied:

“First of all, I will work on the correct usage of the terminology in the language.  If terminology is not widely correctly understood and uniform, discourse will be disorderly, orders are wrongly misinterpreted, and consequently, most orders stop being executed as intended.  If the forms and rituals are not conveniently stabilized then, social relationship are distorted and customs and rituals neglected, justice is not adequately rendered, and the kingdom is weakened.  Any new law must be enunciated in the clearest of terms and never proclaimed without thorough discussions, lest tyranny shows its ugly head”

During and before Confucius period, China was experiencing one of its tumultuous and bloody medieval ages:  the Emperor of the oriental Zhu dynasty was a figure-head, and provinces were governed by powerful princes with armies.  Confucius was born in the least powerful of provinces, Lu.

The structure of society was highly hierarchical: The scholars transferred from a prince to another nobleman,  simply to live in the entourage of the nobility and teaching the offspring of the noble classes.  The most known books for teaching are: “Canon of poems“, “Book of mutations or Yijing” “Memoirs  on rites”, “Etiquette and rituals”, and “Canon of history or Shujing.

Confucius’ father remarry a second time at the age of 64; he already had 9 daughters.  The new-born boy has a large protuberance on his head and thus, is named Qiu, better known as Confucius.

At around that period, Pythagoras is founding a secret cult based on the magic of numbers; Buddha is preaching his message in India, and Darius, the all-powerful monarch of Persia, has conquered most of the Mediterranean Sea countries, including Egypt.

At the age of 26, Confucius is minister of public works in the province of Lu.  He meets Lao-tse (Taoist religion admonishes not to disturb the equilibrium in nature) who told him: “A brilliant man risks his life by pinpointing the faults in princes.  A learned man is exposed to danger as he divulges the weaknesses of mankind”

Eventually, Confucius becomes prime minister and wages successful military campaigns.  At the age of 50, Confucius is out of favor because he didn’t approve of the prince changing the law without discussions and inputs from counselors   Confucius  spends 10 years of errand with a few of his disciples, suffering hunger and isolation.

Once, he was lost in a city, his disciples were searching for him, and a guy told them: “He must be the one looking like a monarch with a large forehead and behaving like a dog who lost his master.”  Confucius told his disciple: “Looking like a monarch could be controversial; but the description of a dog searching for his master is absolutely correct.

Confucius wrote: “Respect and work on yourself.  How can you govern and guide your family and community if you neglect working on your limitations, weaknesses, and potentials?

At the age of 72, Confucius had compiled “Book of documents” and “Annals of Springs and Autumns”

China successive political regimes adopted Confucius teachings as guiding rod, except during China Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s that didn’t last long.

Note:  This biography was inspired from the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali, in which he investigates the teachings and hard life of 24 characters from all regions, religions, and spanning history from antiquity to modern age.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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