Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Persia

The Hippie Trail, once a symbol of freedom and enlightenment, today is synonymous with danger and war

 Tijana Radeska

Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, many people took the opportunity to roam what was once Persia (Iran). Throngs of American hippies, wanting to get as far as possible from the capitalist West, sought places of “love and freedom.”

The love-seeking route usually started at a European capital, most commonly London and Amsterdam, and continued all the way through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey and from there to the Middle East.

The final station was usually Nepal, with a prolonged stay in India, and many were going even farther to Thailand and Vietnam.

A sizable stretch of the Hippie Trail is now marked by cities that have been destroyed and areas that are forbidden to visitors because they are so dangerous.

The hippies were the successors to the beatniks, who during the 1950s held Kerouac’s On the Road as their bible, traveling across the U.S. in buses, seeking freedom in going wherever they wished and enlightenment through taking whichever drugs they could. (Actually, it was Jack London who started this trend in 1920)

During the 1960s, their attention turned to the East, across the ocean to Ginsburg’s glorified city, Varanasi, which over the years became the Mecca of the hippies. India was even more popular after the Beatles moved into an Indian ashram.

Routes of the Hippie Trail. Author: NordNordWest. CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The hippie youths from America could afford such a trip, because compared to their cost of living at home, it was relatively cheap there.

Apart from the European cities, the entire journey from Yugoslavia to Nepal was for the Americans incredibly low priced and they could afford to live modestly as they traveled. It was also at that time much safer to hitchhike. Many traveled along the trail in a classic Volkswagen van, the vehicle that became symbolic of the hippie movement.

Some of the travelers accepted volunteer positions with the Peace Corps or development projects sponsored by Europe and tended to spend much more time with the locals than the average tourist.

Their voyage was also, according to many anecdotes, one of dope—from smoking joints in Amsterdam and London to the hashish found in Afghanistan, to everything they could find in India and Nepal.

The Hippie Trail represented an alternative Silk Road on which, instead of silk and spices, freedom and love were the ultimate gains.

It was a kind of pilgrimage for many Americans who felt suffocated by the growth of materialism. The trail was a search for oneself and spiritual enlightenment through using different types of drugs or exploring various forms of religion. An escape from the “evil West” into the “more humane” side of the world.

“Be Your Own Goddess” art bus (1967 VW Kombi)

The Huffington Post published an article in 2013, “When Afghanistan Was Just a Stop on the Hippie Trail” written by Christian Caryl. It is painful to read this article today when it describes with such nostalgia what Afghanistan once was: an impoverished place at a moment of modernization, home to a curious people open for discussion with the “strange foreigners.”

Caryl writes about Kabul as a place where, at the time, the American seekers of enlightenment could easily afford to wander around for days and even weeks, many staying at the Sigi’s Hotel, which became a landmark on the trail.

Afghanistan was a beautiful stopping point and it is sad to read how its people, who were open-minded about modernity and eager for prosperity, had their spirits broken by the Russian invasion of 1979. (Wrong. The spirit was still there until the USA/Saudi Kingdom decided to send jihadists)

Hippies sitting with the locals in Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 1973.
Author: Catatonique. CC BY-SA 3.0

The “Intrepid,” as the young, long-haired Americans used to call themselves, were indeed united in love on their voyage. They left messages with travel tips on the walls of The Pudding Shop in Istanbul and also wrote promises that they would find each other on the beaches of Goa or the streets of Kashmir.

The Intrepids weren’t just pioneers of the holy trail that leads from India to Southeast Asia; they also established an alternative human economy for the locals, who organized low-budget bus trips and cheap hostels.

There were religious leaders who specialized exclusively in transcendental awakening for foreigners in India and Nepal. The “Old Freak Street” as the locals call it still exists in Kathmandu, and it is dedicated to the hippie pilgrims of the time.

Unfortunately, things changed after 1979.

Afghanistan was closed due to the Soviet invasion and the Iranian Revolution.

After the Arab-Israeli War that began in 1973, there were strict visa restrictions placed on Western citizens in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, tensions could be felt all around and traveling wasn’t as safe as before. Places like Kashmir and Chitral became less welcoming than they used to be because of unrest in the area.

The hippies caught the last train to a world that nobody expected would one day cease to exist. They created a trail of which half is lost in history due to politics and terror.

The Westerners who traveled the East during those two decades are considered pioneers of the spiritual journeys around the Indian subcontinent, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, but their style and naivety were unique.

Tourism, essentially pioneered by the hippies, ultimately destroyed local cultures. Profiteers of the ever-globalizing economies led to the sterilization of cultural places.

Having photos taken in certain locations became the ultimate goal for tourists, and locals established a system of profiting from Western money with little curiosity about their visitors.

Traveling became such an obligatory part of many cultures that there are those on journeys who feel at home wherever they go. Fortunately, there are still some stunning places not yet invaded by tourism, and hopefully, the greatest effort can be made to take care of them.

Calendar and time going decimal; (Apr. 16, 2010)

            Soon, the day is of 10 hours, the hour of 100 minutes, and the minute is of 100 seconds.  Financial multinationals and Western Globalization programs have decided that it is easier for businesses to have decimal calendar: it is easier to compute returns on interest rates and traveling across time zones is reduced greatly.  For example, latitudes are divided in portions of 15% so that the USA has 4 time zones; with the new calendar, the time portions will be of 36% and the USA will have to deal with only two time zones.

            The French Revolution in 1792 had already begun a new calendar of 10 days a week and thus, a day had 1000 minutes and the minute 1000 seconds; this calendar didn’t last long.  Maybe the real objective for the new calendar is to forget that there was an ancient highly developed civilization called Babylonian very advanced in astronomy and whose metric system was based on 12 and multiples of 12 such as 60.

            I am not sure; this article was written on April the first.  Even today, the normal and natural civil people such as in Latin America, Persia, and many parts of the world start their year March 23 or the beginning of spring.  Celebrations last for a week; the date of April 1st is the effective working day for the New Year.  Sacrifices of animal and humans are to exorcise last year evils into giving mankind reprieve from pain and suffering and abundance.

Color of your money; (Dec. 25, 2009)

Consider a settled community. Suppose that in the beginning each extended family has its own water source, its lot to grow food, its chicken, a goat or cow for milk. For a time, this extended family is sufficient; it might not occasionally eat its fill but it does not suffer of famine or existential danger. Due to calamities in weather, disease, or family problems then productivity for survival is at risk. The slack periods of labor, during winter season for example, has encouraged the extended family to becoming proficient in specific economic practices.

One group of families opts for artisanal productions (such as clothing, pottery, woodworking, metal tools, stonework…) and it trained a few of the members to that kind of non perishable products. Another group of families goes into raising cattle; a third group goes for agriculture of grain based or fruit products. Question: which group of families has potentially the upper hand economically within the community?  Maybe the cattle raisers can existentially survive better and exchange or barter better their products with other kinds of merchandizes. Most probably, goat, cows, or sheep might become the basic common “currency” for exchanges during community market days, events, marriages, and daily routines. The cattle families grow richer in worth especially that they are producing existential needs.

Calamities strike the community and raising cattle is no longer profitable. Suppose that artisans supplant other extended families in economical exchanges and cloth, tools for productions, or other artworks become the basic currency for bartering. It stands to reason that an artisanal product cannot be counterfeited easily because it requires years of training. Communities aid families in time of distress for a short time but customs require that help be returned, for example in labor work.

Life is not that predictable; after trying dominance of one group of families over other extended families then alliances emerge among families. A chief is selected from the allied families; the chief main worry is to establishing stability and good working relationships in the community. A trading and unifying “currency”, agreeable to the alliance, is accepted by the community. Most probably major warehouses for various products are instituted by the chief and his powerful alliance of families. The chiefs learn to consider a currency that is more effective and easier to handle than actual bartering. Soon, metal coins are manufactured: they are not easily counterfeited because they require skills and much training. By the by, rare metals are considered and monopoly for the rare metals is concentrated in the hand of the chief’s entourage. Gradually, political systems learn that a currency has to enjoy properties such as being small to handle, having intrinsic value, rare, and difficult to counterfeit. Families not designated to manufacture the currencies will have to invest large capitals for acquiring the raw material and the skills. Police force is established to guard the warehouses and to apprehend counterfeiters and then hang them. The effigy of the chief is stamped on the coins.

A new class of families emerges (the bankers) that specifically manufacture the coins and distribute them to “oil” the economy.      Conflicts of economic supremacy among groups of “professionals” are frequent and these conflicts turn political by mechanism of alliance of interests. When the political system changes, then the rules of the game change by exercising “preferential” treatments to the alliance. The victor will inherit the warehouses and a new currency is coined to the advantage of the alliance. Other community chiefs might counterfeit the “enemy’s” currency with lower quantity of gold or silver for profit and for discrediting the enemy chief. In general, pride along with the dissemination of perception that the enemy is expanding economically on territory forces the counterfeiting chief to “recall” the counterfeited currency.

The colonies in the US before independence experienced economic expansions while England was having hard times. Benjamin Franklin, Ambassador to France after the US independence, let out the secret: Economic expansion was related to the colonies enjoying the right to “printing” currency when the economy needed this “oiling” mechanism. England then convinced the U, after its independence, to have the monopoly of issuing money; the Rothschild family endeavored to ruin the US economic expansion by refraining from distributing needed currencies. The dollar received a higher value than being simply an oiling mechanism: the dollar was overvalued and the economy shrank. After the civil war of secession two powers got in conflict: the bullion gold group and the “Green buck” who rightly considered the bullion currency as undemocratic and favoring the northern States who horded most of the gold.

This concept of money as simply lubricating mechanism continued to be adopted by economists since Adam Smith: economists set the money aside as an economic factor of interest and analyzed the economy as a barter exchange of good that was no longer valid.  Money is an entire social fact; it is a language and an institution (a set of rules, regulations guaranteed by political power that should be accepted as legitimate); money reflects the tag of war among classes in times of financial crisis: money has not the same value and meaning for the poor and the rich. The rich classes have the connections and political cloud to efficiently utilize and fructify their worth in money. Money is indeed unequally distributed and has become a cultural capital that divides communities.

What happens when a currency with intrinsic value is substituted with paper money or banknotes? What kind of confidence the community members enjoy to resume exchanging good products with just papers or fiduciary banknotes?  What happens when citizens are forbidden to exchange this fiduciary paper with gold put in reserves to guarantee their worth?

Question: “how this currency is guaranteed to be accepted by the entire community for smooth exchange of merchandizes?” There are three levels of confidence required for times of financial crisis. First with have the “methodical confidence”; a check worth $100 from one national bank should be exchanged with $100 at another national bank; the institution of “independent” National Banks guarantee this kind of confidence when one bank goes bankrupt. The second kind of confidence is “hierarchical confidence”. In times of financial crisis there are hierarchical structures to quick “arbitration mechanisms” among financial institutions based on rules, laws, and regulations. The third kind of confidence is the “ethical confidence”. The political power in charge of supervising money distribution makes decisions that are never neutral economically and socially. If legitimacy of the authority is lacking due to ethnic or religious conflicts with a State, then ethical confidence is perturbed. It is the conformity to a system of values that is the last barrier against monetary crisis. This is what happened in Argentina, especially when Argentina tied its currency to the overvalued US dollar and thus Argentina lost its independence of issuing money relative to the internal trading expansion.

It is inevitable that globalization will institute two kinds of currencies; one currency meant for the little people and “derivatives” for the big players. The traditional monetary system for the little people will adopt an international banknote based on a basket of rare metals, critical industrial raw material metals, and other existential products. This currency would actually function as a redistribution mechanism of accumulated currency reserves from States to other needy States in currency. The little people currency would be transferred as fiscal exchange among federated states.

The “derivative” currency (future, forward, and option) will be established after international institutions guarantee the three kinds of confidence for derivative exchanges and stop being a competition among enemies.

The two most powerful regional powers: Turkey and Iran; (Nov. 10, 2009)

Turkey is the 16th ranked economy and Iran the 17th, with the understanding that Turkey has no oil or gas production while Iran was the second exporter of oil and the second in world’s reserve.

Turkey has a population of 70 million while Iran is about 60 million.

Iran is much larger than Turkey in size, but the two nations are big enough to be considered continent ,self-sufficient and independent nations.

Turkey planned to be  the turnpike for most of oil and gas pipelines originating in Russia, Iran, and central Asia and converging to Europe.  (The upheaval in Syria is mainly due to foiling Turkey strategy). Iran has a strategic access to the Straight of Hermouz.

Russia has borders with both nations that dictated the foreign policies of both countries.  Both countries have over 7 States along their borders.

Both nations share the Kurdish problem for self-autonomy: The Kurds are about over 20 millions and live in inaccessible mountain chains and high plateaus in Iraq; they overflow to vast regions in East Turkey, West Iran, and North Syria.

Turkey is mostly Moslem Sunnis and Iran Moslem Shiaa since the 18th century. Turkey has the least number of Christian  in the Moslem world in proportion to the total population, due to successive genocide policies in the last century that forced the minorities to exit this country. Before last century, the Ottoman Empire was the most lenient empire in matter of religious belief.

Since antiquity, Turkey influence reached to the Euphrates River in Syria while Iran to the Tigers River in Iraq. Both large rivers take sources in Turkey. and the Euphrates River crosses Syria and Iraq.

The good news is that these two most powerful regional powers have many interests in common that dwarf any petty political divergences; they are the cornerstone for a new economic and strategic alliance in the Middle East.

Turkey has cultural and linguistic influence in Azerbaijan, the Caucasus regions, Serbia regions, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Iran has the same kinds of influence in most of these regions in addition to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Brief history:

Throughout antiquity till our modern days 3 main empires dominated the landscape of the Middle East. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt were vast economic and political empires before the advent of Islam. Turkey and Iran managed to enjoy a semi-continuous existence of empires, but Egypt had large vacuums of many centuries in between empires since the Pharaohs.

Egypt enjoyed special status during the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires and was a world apart as wheat basket and the most advanced in civilization.

Turkey and Iran could benefit from stable “national” entities, but Egypt experienced foreign leaders as kings or sultans and relied on foreign officers to lead its armies, the latest dynasty was from Albania with Muhammad Ali.

The former 3 empires are currently mostly Moslems and they were in general lenient with the minority religious sects.

The three empires have vast lands, rich in water, and have currently about the same number of population of about 70 millions and increasing at high rates.

The Iranian empires relied on Afghanistan’s and the central Asian’s tribes for their armies.  As the frequent Mogul raids descended on Persia its armies went on the defensive.

The Turkish and Ottoman empires relied on the Caucasus tribes from current Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia States, and also from Albania and Romania.

As Russia started to expand southward and occupied many of these regions, then Turkey curtailed most of its vast military campaigns and went on the defensive.

The Caucasus triangle of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia is still a hot spot for domination among Russia, Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iran, especially with the oil and gas pipelines that pass through them.  My post “Cursed Cities: Kars” would shed detailed historical accounts on that tragic triangle.

Modern Status:

In around 1920’s, two military dictators ruled over Iran and Turkey.  Rida “shah” in Iran and Mustapha Kemal “Ataturk” in Turkey were attempting to modernize their infrastructure and civil administrations by emulating the European examples.   Ataturk went as far as changing the Turkish alphabet to Latin.  Both dictators confronted the religious clerics for establishing secular States with unequal long-term successes.  Iran has reverted to religious oligarchy after Khomeini came to power.

While Iran was historically more lenient with its minorities, it appears that Turkey is practically taking steps to outpacing Iran in that advantage; for example, Turkey is translating the Koran into the ethnic languages such as Kurdish.  Women in Turkey are prominent in businesses such as Goler Sabanji; 9% of women are represented in the Parliament.

In Iran, Shireen Abadi is Nobel laureate for defending women’s rights; Iranian women represent only 3% in the Parliament though they constitute 65% in universities.

In the 70’s, Iran was flush with oil revenue while Turkey was struggling to establish an industrial infrastructure. It appears that in the long-term, oil in underdeveloped nations is definitely a curse for emerging nations because wealth is not invested on the human potentials and stable modern political structure.

In 2008, foreign investment in Turkey was $14 billions and increasing while it amounted to just one billion in Iran.  Turkey has expanded its representation in Africa by opening 12 new Embassies and 20 new consulates.

Nisreen Ozaimy is from Iran by origin and fled to Turkey; when her family lived in Turkey it was impressed by the confidence that the Turks valued their various ethnic nationalities; they had this implicit feeling that Turkey is in fact a bridge between East and West.  The Turks managed to blend harmoniously the secular and religious inclinations.

Turkey is a member of NATO and has a chance to joining the European Union.  Turkey is out of its 60 years hibernation and is currently very active in Middle East Affairs.  Turkey was on excellent terms with Syria (until 2011): they recently opened their borders to enter without visas and are conducting joint military maneuvers.  Turkey is about to reach a peace agreement with the Kurdish opposition movement.

Iran is struggling to be incorporated in the world community and the nuclear issue is poisoning its relations with the western nations.

Note 1 :  this is a revised and updated version of my post “Turkey and Iran: Same and Different (April 25, 2009)”

Note 2:  Turkey has the potential to normalize its political and diplomatic relations with almost all Islamic and Arab States except Saudi Arabia.  The most obscurantist theocratic and monarchic Wahhabi sect would never forgive Ottoman Turkey to have sent a military expeditionary force in the 19th century that destroyed and erased the Wahhabi Capital in Najd.

The same Wahhabi dynasty would never normalize relation with Shiaa Iran because it is always feeling insecure of this close powerful State that infiltrated the northern regions of Saudi Arabia in the last two centuries.

Turkey is currently the main cornerstone regional power;

Erdogan next in line for Nobel Peace; (October 21, 2009)

 

            In December 18, 2004 I wrote “Turkey: A Regional Power in the Making “.  In February 4, 2009 I updated my article “A Regional Power out of hibernation in the Near East“.  Another update is required because Turkey seems to vigorously and quickly act everywhere.

Turkey forgot the Islamic world for over 60 years and relied on its military to impose a secular state and emulate the Western culture in alphabet and in dress codes. Ataturk wanted to shed the image of backward Ottoman Empire that lost an Empire extending from Hungry to Iraq to Arabic Peninsula, the Near East, Egypt and all Northern Africa.   The other Empire to the east was the Persian Safafid Dynasty that extended to Pakistan. The Safafid Empire was founded by another Turkish leader and opted to adopt the Chiaa Moslem sect as the religion of his Empire.

Turkey is part of NATO (this year is its turn to lead the NATO forces in Afghanistan) thanks to the cold war against the defunct neighbor of Soviet Union: Turkey was the main effective ally to the US in the region during the cold war. Turkey was denied full membership in the European Union because the same Soviet Union disintegrated into “independent States” recognized by the UN; France and Germany offered a rational for their refusal on ground of Turkey not satisfying the basic social and political requirement of a homogenous member.  For 60 years Turkey had turned its back to the Arab problems, and allied to the State of Israel and the Shah of Iran.

Things are changing fast after the horrors of Gaza and the tearing down of the mask of the Zionist ideology of terror, expansion, and apartheid.  Turkey was playing the fair mediator between Syria and Israel in order for the return of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Turkey was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians to render the life of the Palestinians under occupation more bearable during the peace negotiations for a separate Palestinian State.  Israel Olmert PM lied to the Turkish PM Erdogan before the barbaric re-incursion into Gaza.

Rajab Tayyeb Erdogan, Turkey’s PM is undeniably the most powerful leader criticizing the Zionist State for its genocide in Gaza. He canceled a joint military maneuver with the US and Israel. The US has nobody else to conduct military maneuvers but Israel in this region; the latest naval one is to last two weeks with objective to save Israel of mass missile attack!

Turkey, under Erdogan, is currently more powerful than the whole of Europe in the Near East for establishing peace, stability and equitable political resolutions.  Turkey is a self sufficient independent Nation and has ruled the whole Middle East for four centuries. Turkey has awakened from a long hibernation and decided to be a major regional power broker.   

Turkey is demanding and acting as the main power broker in the Near East because it has interest in the stability of its south eastern borders with Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  So far, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq were peons for the larger policies of the US, Europe, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.  Turkey’s current policies beg to differ: “no more war zones at my borders and in my back yards”.  The US and Israel must have understood the message clearly and loudly. The so-called “moderate” Arab States of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cowering down and are taken by surprise to the emergence of the new revitalized Turkey siding with the underdogs.

We are not hearing anymore about the Turkish war on the Kurdish self-autonomous movement.  I wholeheartedly wish that negotiations are secretly and seriously underway with the Kurdish Workers’ Party for a peaceful resolution.  The Kurdish problem was used by the USA and Israel to blackmail Turkey.  I have a feeling that the Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran appreciate the new directions of Erdogan’s government and would find in Erdogan a viable interlocutor and would cooperate with Turkey to lighten up this heavy burden of a useless and fruitless civil war. The new policy in Turkey is to open peaceful negotiations with the opposition Kurds; around 200 Kurdish leaders in the resistance movement have turned themselves in and all indicates that a resolution is palpable.

Turkey will be asked to exercise its beneficial influence in restoring peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.  It will inevitably join the European Union with the unavoidable important changes that Turkey will have to accept and undergo in matters of democracy, liberty, human rights, social and economical constraints.

This transformation of a powerful neighbor will transcend into a drastic transformation of the societies surrounding Turkey. The benefits are already materializing in closer ties with Syria, pressures on Israel to agree on a Palestinian State, and greater normalization with Iran.  Turkey is obviously the main power that can provide autonomy to the Kurdish nationalism spreading among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey is the main power that can efficiently check US omnipotence in the Middle East and any resurgence of Russia militarism. Turkey prevented Bush Junior to invade Iraq through its territory; the US air base in Interlink was prohibited to launch air raids on Iraq.  I have great hope in this new power amongst us, especially that the current Turkish government has proven to be far sighted and confident in its power and role in this region.

For a couple of years after Europe shut off the door for Turkey entering the Union Turkey felt the need to crawl in a cave and hibernate; Turkey shook off its lethargic attitude and is now in the driving seat and operating a strategy that befits its power in the Middle East.  It has surmounted tough obstacles in economic difficulties, human rights issues that are frequently reemerging, and demonstrations that are occasionally broken by brute force. Turkey is no longer allowed to relax.  Turkey is quickly learning that it has to keep pace with the culture of Europe and to fight harder to catch up with lost time. Its dialogue with Syria has brought fruits: no visas are needed to cross joint borders, seasonal water resource shortages are frequently revised, and the western world had come to term that it can no longer circumvent Syria in this volatile region with Turkey’s backing.

Europe must be appreciating the decision of Turkey to play a major role in the Near East but the US is very wary because it refuses to share pre-eminence in the Middle East.  Turkey active diplomacy and clear policies should weight heavier in the decision process for joining the European Union.  The frustrations of Turkey with the EU must have given it a clear hint of what its policies should be based on and where its focus should be directed to.

            Turkey is the new pivotal power in the Middle East in the coming decades.  It is the cornerstone for new emerging Northern Middle East Block with Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  This strategic block in formation is inevitable after the US troops leave Iraq and would constitute the best guarantee for this volatile region to peace and security.

            Erdogan should have received the Nobel Award for Peace instead of Barak Obama who has no active records to show for earning this prize (Read my post “What that! Nobel Prize for Passivity?”  Erdogan has already executed peace treaties with his archenemies: Syria, Armenia, the Kurds, soon with Cyprus, and has definitely sided with the Palestinians against apartheid Israel.  Normally, Erdogan is in line for the peace prize. Judging from the trend, the cynical Nobel Committee never feels comfortable awarding Peace Prizes to Middle Eastern leaders unless it is shared with the devils such as Began and Shimon Peres. Erdogan got my highest prize and we all feel much more optimist in our future.

Islamophobia is anathema to rational thinking; (October 18, 2009)

 

            Islam is quickly becoming an integral religion in the Western world.  There is a growing sense of uneasiness for Islam devotees: they pray at least three times a day facing Mecca (the Kaaba) and take seriously the fasting month of Ramadan. The various Christian sects barely practice their religion; the “Christians” mostly use their religion as political platforms during voting seasons to discriminate among cultures for the “proper way of life”.  A recent scandal broke out in England: the government is wire taping the Moslems on ground of social study.  In France there was an attempt at disqualifying Arabs as carrier of any philosophical civilization that could have impressed on European Renaissance.  The Arabic media didn’t respond to “Aristotle on Mount St. Michelle” simply because the book talked of philosophical import and didn’t discuss the scientific aspects.

            The main confusion in Europe or in the Arab/Islamic world is about what Empires we are alluding to: Arabic Empires (culture) or Islamic Empires (civilization) and how to discriminate among the cultures of each one of the Empires.  The modern nationalistic models (brainchild of emerging Europe) could not correspond to ancient models of thinking and thus, the attempts to explaining past Empires with modern models of what constitute a nation is confusing research and biasing facts with awkward interpretations.

            In all periods, elites of Empires needed an ideology to assure the articulation of various heritages (Arab, Persian, Byzantium, Roman, Greek, and Aramaic).  The unstable structure of ancient Empires frequently pressed upon its elites to rethink the new culture of the emerging Empire and re-construct it via a mould where diverse elements were poured in (ethnicity, community, belief systems, and language).  Thus, social thinkers struggled to present a coherent understanding of the new Empire; the purpose was not an erudite analysis for posterity but to get the new Empire functioning properly.

            This post is meant to investigate the allegation that European civilization is fundamentally the heritage of ancient Greece civilization.  I have examined the contention that “Europe civilization is because of Christianism”, a proposal that I refuted in a previous post (read “The Barbaric Catholic Church of Rome”) where the centralized church prohibited the influx of “heretic” scientific manuscripts to Europe from the Near Eastern Byzantium Empire and later from the Islamic Empire till way the 16th century.

            The best route for this examination is to consider two civilizations that imbibed the Islamic Empires.  The first Umayyad Arabic Empire 650 to 800 AC had for Capital Damascus; the culture in the Near East in that period was principally Hellenistic in the sense that scholars and educated people wrote in two languages, the Greek and Syriac languages (Aramaic dialect developed in Edesse, current Turkey) ; the common people spoke the language of the land or Aramaic.  Aramaic is the root language for Hebrew and the various local languages, especially the two Arabic branches that were spoken in Mecca and in Yemen.  It is in this period that lasted 150 years that translation of Greek and Syriac manuscripts into Arabic received its impetus.  Translation of Greek works to Syriac continued way into the 9th century. The people easily assimilated the spoken Arabic of Mecca and gave Arabic its proper alphabet and grammar.

            The second period can be called the Islamic Empire when the Capital was re-located to the newly erected city of Baghdad (Baghdad was to become the largest metropolis in this Empire of over one million inhabitant); this Islamic civilization was marked by the Persian culture and language with high import from India: trade was cut off with Europe for many centuries first during the Mamluk Empires after kicking out the last remnant of the Crusaders and later the early Ottoman Empire as Constantinople fell in around 1450. 

            The Umayyad Dynasty exported to Islamic Persia the embryo of the current scientific works and the nascent Islamic philosophy (falsafa); the more developed scientific works were later mostly written in Persian language; the same scholars wrote the disciplines that were related to religion, philosophy, rhetoric, legal, mathematics, and algebra, in Arabic because they were needed for the proper function in the administration of the Empire.  Educated and cultured people who were familiar with Greek works met in “salons” (majalis) to discuss on various subjects, philosophical incursions into the possible, the intellect, the sensibility and the soul. 

            Schools of learning were erected and knowledge was no longer the prerogative of the initiation of master to disciple for rich people. By the first century of Islam (8th century), schools were exploding everywhere with targeted practical disciplines (algebra, geometry, arithmetic, trigonometry, jurisprudence, theology (kalam), science of tradition (hadith), history, linguistic, lexicography, math combinatorial analysis, cryptography, and grammar) mainly to support the functions of the Empire administration and train cadres for offices such as fiscal, heritage, religious calendar, and army logistics. The schools were inspired by different traditions such as Greek, Persian, Indian, and Syriac).  By the second century of Islam specialized schools in theoretical mathematics, medicine, physics, optics, and astronomy were booming.

            The first acknowledged Moslem philosopher Al Kindi (9th century) admitted that Aristotle was the most eminent Greek philosopher and wrote: “We have to thank the prior thinkers who shared with us what is right; they made it more accessible to us researching the truth and they provided the premises that leveled the way for what is true.  Offering reasons and demonstrations are part of the acquisition process in the sciences for veracity. Those strangers to scientific inquiries are trafficking in religion even though they have got no religion: indeed the one who sells one thing does no longer belong to him.”

            Personally, I tend to attribute the name of Islamic civilization for the import of scientific disciplines such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, physics, optics, and chemistry.  Arabic civilization should be restricted to the Umayyad Dynasty period in matters of rhetoric, legal, practical mathematics, Kalam (reflection on the world according to the Koran paradigm), grammars, language, and the import of any outside scientific knowledge that the Old World reserved in Constantinople, Persia, India, and China.

            A follow up post will demonstrate that European Renaissance in the 16th century was fundamentally Islamic scientifically; the decentralization of the Christian power away from Rome was also inspired by the decentralization nature of Islam as a religion.  The title is “Europe’s Renaissance is Islamic”.  It is worthwhile for researchers not to confuse the recent period of Islamic radical decadence with early Islamic civilization that lasted from 650 to 1100 AC in the Orient and then re-surfaced in Andalusia (Spain) from 800 till 1400 AC.  After 1400 AC Christian Spanish monarchs chased out the Moslems and Jews from their kingdom; the Catholic Church in Rome instituted the Inquisition to harass the new converts to Christianity.

The devil is NOT in the details; (October 16, 2009)

 

            Details are what bring people together to communicate, dialogue, and negotiate to reach compromises.  The main wall that separate among communities is the concrete wall mixed with myths, general concepts, and abstract notions.  Strong with draft details each organization can start to sort out the differences and comprehend the big picture; it is never the way around in social behavior. I will discuss two cases, one religious and the other of political nature.

            After the crucifixion of Jesus many Christian sects were born in the Near East in the first four centuries.  Fundamentally, these sects were almost identical in applying the Jewish daily rituals or the Jewish 650 laws of “correct” conduct. What separated these sects were abstract concepts that did not harm their peaceful coexistence in separate communities of believers: they never attacked by force one another; military persecutions started when the Church acquired central power in Constantinople; whole “heretic” sects and entire communities had to flee to safety. 

            Thus, The Mighty Wall was erected after 325 AC when Byzantium Empire decided to adopt Christianity as the main religion of the Empire.  Thus, the central power concept of the Empire dictated that church should be centralized.  Instead of focusing in negotiating on the details that split the various sects an upper abstract super-structure on concepts was imposed; concepts such as the dual nature of Christ, the deity of the threes (the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit), the virginity of the mother Mary and on.  This time around, the sects were to join the Orthodox Church by force if need be: a central Empire cannot permit disunity, even on totally nonsense abstract conjectures!

            Consequently, the labeled “heretic” sects had to flee beyond the eastern shores of the Euphrates River (to the Persia Sassanide Dynasty).  The Nestourian sect reached China and translated “their” Bible into the Chinese language. Many other “heretic” sects settled in the Arabic Peninsula; the Christian-Jewish “Ebionite” sect was firmly entrenched in Mecca; the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, Ain Warkat, was the Patriarch of this sect and Muhammad learned to read in the Aramaic Ebionite Bible; Muhammad aided his uncle in the translation of this specific Bible into the Arabic slang of Mecca.  Thus, Islam is originally a common denominator “heretic” Christian sect, one of many Christian sects in the Arabic Peninsula; the Prophet had to delete all the abstract notions to unite the sects; it was named Islam or the belief in the One and only God.

            The strong animosity of the Catholic Church of Rome against Islam was not directed at a religion such as Buddhism or Mazdean but at a new “heretic” Christian sect usurping its central power in the Near East. The Orthodox Church in Constantinople was more lenient with Islam because it understood its genesis and the causes for the need of this new “heresy”; for Constantinople Islam was the oriental counterpart of Protestantism to Rome when Islam became the dominant religion in the region. 

            It is said: “the enemy of my enemy is my ally”; this Machiavellian principle was lost to obscurantist Catholic Church. Rome was too far away and fought Islam with the ignorance of abstract concepts. For the Catholic Church in 1,000 AC, Islam was doubly “heretic” instead of just the counterpart to the central Orthodox Church of the Byzantium Empire: it failed to realize that if Islam spread so fast and so widely it is mainly because most the labeled Christian heretic sects quickly converted to Islam as representing their system of belief against the monopole of Constantinople.

 

            The other case is the concept of a Syrian Nation with well delimited natural borders including Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and part of Iraq to the west of the Tiger (Dujlat) River. This concept was highly widespread among the people of the region as the Ottoman Empire was dying during WWI.  It was still even more alive during the mandate of France and Britain to the region (Near East) after WWI. The people in the Syrian Nation speak one language and have the same customs and tradition.  This nation was as natural as ABC; the immigrants were first called Turks during the Ottoman Empire and then they were all called Syrians regardless of location or religion.

            The main problem is that the political parties spent two critical decades proving the evident (according to the newer definitions of the West for a Nation) instead of making the effort to developing draft detailed programs on the type of political administrative structure for this nation, the social representation, and election laws; (for example, is it a Federal structure like the USA where each mandated State is fully autonomous with local government and local parliament, or provinces tailored made to religious, ethnic, and sectarian majorities, or loosely united States with open borders, common money, central army, or centralized foreign affairs; is Syria to be a monarchy and what kind). 

            Instead of discussing detailed programs, political parties mushroomed with abstract concepts not based on facts or pragmatic long-term goals. The colonial “mandated powers” of France and England had field days of “dividing to rule”.  Every sect established its political party in every potential State claiming either total independence, or seeking a pan-Arabic Nation of Arabic speaking majorities in States, or Islamic Nation.  We watched the emergence of communist parties disclaiming the notion of affiliating to a nation, to sectarian parties claiming democracy, socialism, and progressive. The worst propaganda that was encouraged by the colonial powers is to incite citizens against the Syrian people with the objective of discrediting the word Syria and giving it a bad connotation.

              Natural borders of chain of mountains, desert, or large rivers do not necessarily protect from invasions; natural borders certainly encourage people to trade and interact inside the borders.  It is the internal rough geography and terrain that protects from outside military incursions.  Once a force crosses the border then Syria is an open land all the way to Egypt. Syria, or the Near East, was continuously occupied by foreign armies: these foreign invaders had to retreat quickly or get absorbed culturally. Whatever monuments, constructions, temples, sport arena, or scholarly works that were attributed to invading nations (Persia, Egypt, Greek, Rome, or Arab) are basically the work of the Near Eastern civilization, their scholars, their craftsmen, and their adventurous business acumen.

            The City-States in the Near East (Tyr, Sidon, Byblos, Ugharit, Mary …) competed in commerce and trade but never attacked one another militarily.  In Greece, City-States frequently waged military wars against one another.  The Near Eastern people adopted defensive strategy; even Carthage in its apogee refrained to antagonize Rome militarily.

            Egypt and Persia frequent invasions in the Near East did not last long.  The Greek were absorbed: what Europe claim as Greek civilization is nothing less than the civilization of the Greek writing Syrians who spoke Aramaic.  Rome was finally absorbed: the Roman Laws are of the legal minds from the school of Beirut and the latest Emperors were born, raised, and educated in Syria. The Byzantium Empire was fundamentally a Near Eastern Empire.  The Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula were absorbed when Damascus was selected as Capital during the Umayyad Dynasty; the Arabs were absorbed by the Persian civilization when the capital shifted to Baghdad.  The Mogul retreated quickly but established long lasting Empires in India and Afghanistan. The Ottoman conquered this land and could not be absorbed: the Syrian people were already exhausted from many years of successive invasions, religious obscurantism, and immigration by scholars to greener pastures.  France and England retreated within two decades.  Israel failed to retreat on time and is now being absorbed as Near Eastern regardless of Israel attempts to seeking European image.

            Consequently, failing to writing a draft on a possible administrative program for the Syrian Nation opened the door to abstract concept instead of working out negotiation and dialogue on pragmatic matters that concerned the people.

The barbaric Catholic Church; (October 13, 2009)

 

            There is a resurgence of Islamophobia in France couched under the pretext of discovering the origins of European civilization as a combination of Greek and Christian cultures. It would be worthwhile to set the historical facts straight for any meaningful reply.

            Since 325 AC to around 700 AC there was a Christian Empire dominated by Byzantium with Capital in Constantinople. This empire was to the east of the Euphrates River, crossing Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, all the way to England and including North Africa. It was basically a Mediterranean Sea Empire.  To the west of the Euphrates River there was a Persian Empire, mostly under the Sassanide Dynasty.  The Arabic Empire did not conquer the western part of Turkey which remained with the Byzantium Empire until 1450 when the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad 2 entered Constantinople and spread all the way to the borders of Vienna in Austria.

            In around 1000 a major schism in Christianity split the Catholic Church of Rome with the Christian Orthodox Church of Constantinople. Actually, the initial Crusade campaigns had for objective to conquer Constantinople and coerce the Orthodox Church into uniting with Rome. That is what took place and Constantinople was ransacked and burned before the Crusading forces marched on toward Jerusalem. The other successive Crusading incursions had for objective to capture Egypt and free the spice routes directly to Europe without paying taxes to the Moslem Kingdoms along the maritime and land caravan routes.

            Thus, from 325 to 1450 Europe was Christian.  Why Greek civilization, if Europe insists on taking the source of its culture from antique Greece, was not prevalent during over 11 centuries?  Why Europe remained barbaric till the 15th century?  Is it because the Christian dogma of Rome was barbaric and refused other civilizations and cultures to infiltrate Europe?  Certainly the Christian clerics were at least bilingual, mostly Latin and Greek, and consequently, if Greece had any culture it would have been translated into Latin. Some would give the lame excuse that the scholars in Europe, mostly the clerics, could read the Greek manuscripts in their original forms and had no need to translate any manuscripts into Latin or other live languages; this would be another proof that the Catholic Church of Rome was barbaric and refused philosophical and scientific disciplines to penetrate into Europe.

            Europe experienced a demographic surge around 1000 AC; it is after getting in contact with the Near East culture and civilization (under Arabic/Islamic kingdoms) during the Crusading campaigns that culture entered Europe from the open door.  Even after the total defeat of the Crusaders in 1200 the Near East culture permeation would continue via Andalusia in southern Spain. The Arabic/Moslem civilization in Spain was the main source for the transfer of sciences into Europe until the “Christian” Spanish monarchs conquered completely Spain in around 1400 and chased out Moslems and Jews from its territory.

            Greece after Aristotle did not produced much in culture.  It was just a brilliant century for the City-State of Athens during Pericles period, as so many glorious periods for a dozen other City-States that dotted the Mediterranean shores and the Euphrates River, from Mary, Harran, Edessee, Ugharite, Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, Tyr, and much later Alexandria, Antiochus, and Ephesus, and on that scholars and archeologists have to start focusing on for the origins of civilizations.  The proof is that the Byzantium Empire that was established in Greece for over 11 centuries is no where mentioned as source for any worthwhile civilization.

            Macedonian warriors under Alexander conquered the Near East; it is not because the Near East people, from Alexandria, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and coastal Turkey, who assimilated the Greek language and spread their own culture and civilization in the Greek language that Europe has to claim its civilization to Greece. Europe should not. It is the Near East culture and civilization that assimilated the languages of the various conquerors (Mesopotamians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula, Ottomans from the Turkish Plateau, French colonialism, and English colonialism) that absorbed and disseminated the fundamental cultures and civilizations to its neighboring environment.  

            It is not because of the invasion of nomadic warriors from the Arabic Peninsula that Arabic civilization should be labeled Arab.  Why the Mogul Empires that lasted longer than many Empires and stretched much further than many are not given any civilization?  It is a shame that Europe still feels the urge to attribute civilization to military conquering warriors.

 

Note: The title was meant to be catchy to drive through the purpose of the topic. I have no zeal to dwell into religions of any kinds. I would like readers to refer to my recent post “Damascus saved the Greek culture”.

Damascus saved the ancient Greek culture; (October 10, 2009)

 

            The German philosopher Heidegger stated: “Philosophy is purely Greek” and thus, the European love to believe that philosophy is purely a western conception. In “Aristotle at mount St. Michel”, the latest book of Sylvain Guggenheim, it is said in substance that Europe would not have needed the Arab civilization to accede to the Greek heritage in philosophy and sciences and that it is the Christian “Arabs” who introduced Hellenisms in the Islamic-Arab world. It goes on “As a religion, Islam didn’t offer anything to the European civilization, neither textual reference nor theological argument. It goes also in the legal and political domains.”

           

I got into thinking.

            The Islamic armies defeated the Byzantium forces of Heracles in Syria and the Persian Sassanide forces in Iraq and expanded into Egypt during the second Caliphate Omar Ibn Khattab.  Within five years, the Umayyad dynasty of Moawiyat decided on Damascus for Capital of the new Arab Empire.

            Damascus was the hotbed of most of the Orthodox Christian sects that paid allegiance to the center in Byzantium and they were learned in the Greek language along with the Aramaic popular language.  The “heretic” Christian sects had fled beyond the Euphrates River to the kingdom of Persia.

            The Arab Umayyad dynasty relied on the Orthodox Christian educated people to translate Greek philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and science manuscripts into the Arabic language; the Aramaic language was the root language for the spoken Arabic language in the Arabic Peninsula and thus it was easy for the Syrian to adopt Arabic and translate the Greek and Roman manuscripts.

            It is not that the Near East people just loved the ancient Greek manuscripts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, and Sophocles. It is more likely that most of the Greek schools of sciences, philosophy, and medicine were erected by Greek speaking scholars born on the Mediterranean shores from Alexandria, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey; those famous scholars span from Euclid, Thales, Heracles, Plotine, Zenon, Ptolemy, and passing by the great law givers and founders of the Roman Empire located in Beirut.

            If the new Islamic Empire failed to settle on Damascus as Capital and opted to stay in Medina then it is very likely that the Greek manuscripts and culture would have vanished during the hegemony of the Arabic Empire.

 

I got into thinking.

            If in the nick of time, the fourth Caliphate Ali ibn Abi Taleb decided not to defeat and pursue the army of Mouawiyat then the Capital of the Islamic Arab Empire would have been Koufa in Iraq.  The ancient culture of Persia would have been the civilization of the land from the confine of China to England.  What the European scholars love to label their race as Indo-European would have been a more fitting name: the Persian-Indian culture and civilization.

 

I got into thinking.

            If the Prophet Muhammad did not adopt the Jewish Bibles and the Christian New Testaments as integral part of Islam in an attempt of consolidating common denominators among these monotheist religions then what kind of Christianity Europe would be having today?

            Damascus saved the ancient Greek language. Damascus saved its culture.  Like it or not, the European should be proud of their real Near Eastern heritage along the eastern Mediterranean shores. (More on that topic in following posts).

“Allah Akbar, my dear sons…” (September 3, 2009)

This typical preach was extracted from “Yaakoubian Building” by Ala2 al Aswany.   It is how Moslem extremists strike at the chords of unemployed youth, submitting to indignity, humiliation, and lost hopes for any improvement…

Sheikh Chaker brushed his teeth with a small piece of wood “sawak” that was used in ancient times in the Arabic peninsula and is adopted nowadays as a sign of Islam fidelity.  Then the sheikh preached to the packed mosque; he exalted God the one and only, pronouncing the formula “Bismillah Arrahman Arrahim” and said:

“My dear sons and daughters; I wish you ponder on this question: how many years man gets to live on earth? On average man could live to be 70 and this is a brief period; he may suddenly die for any kinds of ailments or accidents. None of your relatives who died instantly at a young age thought that they may die.

Man had only two choices: you either focus your efforts on your short existence (you are building a luxurious residence on sand) or you live as if a stepping stone period to eternal life. Thus, you gain a terrestrial life and an eternal life. Your spirit is happy and your conscience is at rest. The believer is no longer afraid of death, a short passage.  This faith permitted a couple of thousands of Muslims to defeat two empires (Persia and Byzantium).

The Muslim believers hoisted the green flag on every corner of earth. God prescribed Jihad to exalt His name and to vanquish our desires.  Jihad is not only one of the obligations of Islam as praying and fasting, but is the most important. The corrupted leaders in the Moslem world and their hired theologians are scared of Jihad that it might turn against their thrones.

By toning down Jihad, Islam was emptied of its true significance and our religion was transformed into empty set of rituals accomplished as physical exercises devoid of the spirit.

As Moslems abandoned Jihad, they returned slaves to terrestrial attachments, fearing death, and cowards. Their enemies defeated them and humiliated them and God punished them with poverty and under-development. Our terrestrial governments pretend applying Islam laws and democracy as well. God knows that they are twice liars.

We are governed by French secular laws that authorize alcohol, fornication, and homosexuality when both parties are consenting. Governments make profit of illegal games of luck and the selling of alcohol and then re-inject the illicit profits to pay their Moslem employees with sinfully gained money.

The faked democracy organizes fraudulent elections, imprisons Moslems, and submits them to tortures so that the reigning powers do enjoy their thrones for ever. They lie, lie, and lie, and want us to believe their lies! We are telling them: we refuse that our nation “umma” be democratic or socialist.  We want our nation Islamic. We will carry on Jihad.

Islam and democracy are opposite doctrines; Islam does not recognize but the government of God.  Democracy wants to submit God’s Laws to the Assembly of the people to decide on their application. God said “How blasphemous is their word: they utter but lies. God’s Laws are immediately applied regardless how much they detest them”

The mission of Moslem youth is to re-discover the notion of Jihad. This exactly what the USA and Israel are afraid of, along with the traitors governing us. They are scared of Islam re-awakening. The Zionists are fornicating within the walls of the Al Aqsa.  A small number of resistant fighters from Hezbollah and Hamas were capable of stopping the onslaught of powerful armies where Abdel Nasser failed completely.

Oh grandsons of Abu Bakr, Omar, Khaled, and Saad; the hope of Islam is suspended to you as it was to your glorious ancestors. God looks at you to satisfy His promises…”

 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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