A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘clash of civilizations

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • blogTO lists ten zine artists of note in Toronto.
  • Centauri Dreams reports on new simulations of gas giant formation.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of Halloween partiers in New York City’s West Village circa the early 1990s.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports that the system of HR 2562 may include a brown dwarf.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that a Northern Irish party leader has vowed to block gay marriage because of Internet rudeness.
  • Language Hat considers the complexities involved in translating the Odyssey.
  • Language Log reports on how the Chinese word “daigou” might be infiltrating into English.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the popularity of an Indonesian coffee shop known for its cyanide, and reports that East Asian men contribute little to parenting time.
  • The NYRB Daily reports on a new exhibition about the Brontës.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog charts references to Ukrainian separatists in Russia media.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how some wish to abolish restive northern autonomous regions like Sakha, looks at how some Russian Orthodox activists wish to ban Halloween, and suggests Russia is isolated in its anti-Western sentiment.

[NEWS] Some Saturday links

  • Bloomberg notes Venezuela’s hopes for an oil price at $US 50, looks at Labour keeping the current London mayor’s seat, observes the vulnerability of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and warns of a possible drought in the US Corn Belt.
  • Bloomberg View notes the continuing fragmentation of the Orthodox Church, and suggests Putin might accept a partial ban on Russian athletes at the Olympics.
  • CBC looks at Russia’s state-supported soccer hooliganism.
  • MacLean’s notes Florida theme parks’ concerns re: alligator attacks, and notes how homophobia complicates the grieving process for survivors of the Orlando shooting victims.
  • National Geographic looks at the logic chopping behind South Korea’s whale hunt, and observes that some coral reefs have coped.
  • The National Post notes Russia’s professed interest in improved relations with Canada.
  • Open Democracy frames the Orlando shooting in the context of an international campaign by ISIS.
  • The Toronto Star suggests Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs is a model for Canada.

[NEWS] Some Saturday links

  • Bloomberg notes the difficulties Syrian refugees have with liberal Europe, reports on warnings of dropping property values, and examines Russia’s search for partners in Southeast Asia.
  • Bloomberg View reports on a Russian oligarch who warns of the dangers of oil dependence.
  • CBC warns of a resurgence of sexism if Hillary Clinton gets elected.
  • The Inter Press Service notes the positive things refugees can bring to the cities where they are resettled.
  • The National Post reports a claim that an Argentine lawyer who was investigating a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires was forced to kill himself.
  • Reuters notes Oklahoma legislators who want to impeach Obama over trans rights.
  • The Toronto Star notes the imminent installation of a tidal power turbine on the Bay of Fundy.
  • Wired looks at IKEA’s indoor farming kit and defends Los Angeles’ new metro line.

[NEWS] Some Thursday links

  • The Sacramento Bee reports that UC Davis spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on trying to salvage its reputation online, after famously being linked with security guards pepper-spraying student protesters.
  • Bloomberg notes China’s island-building spree in the South China Sea is causing environmental damage, notes Hungary may lose out on future investment because of labour shortages, and notes London property prices are sliding because of Brexit.
  • The Guardian suggests Russians do not care about Putin’s corruption.
  • The Independent reports on a Muslim anti-ISIS march not covered by mainstream media.
  • MacLean’s writes about the NDP, about the hard left turn, about James Laxer’s criticism of the Leap manifesto, and about the disinterest of Megan Leslie and other NDPers in going for the leadership.
  • The National Post notes the potential huge market for insects as human food and notes controversy over First Nations support for a controversial wind energy farm.
  • Quartz notes the culture gap between Koreans and Korean-Americans.
  • In the Toronto Star, Emma Teitel writes about how the pronoun “they” is easy to use.
  • Wired looks at a brain implant that gave a quadriplegic man control of his arm.

[LINK] “The Hindu right is quietly funding—and lobbying—American universities”

Quartz’ report about Hindu nationalist propaganda at American universities is alarming.

In October 2015, the University of California, Irvine, announced the creation of an endowed chair—the Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies—supported by a $1.5 million grant.

As reported in this article in a local newspaper, following pushback from faculty and students because of the suspected Hindu nationalist or Hindu-right sympathies of the foundation, and concerns about excessive interference in the hiring process, the plans for the chair seem somewhat uncertain at present.

Compared to the shenanigans of Hindu-nationalist organisations and their supporters, the controversy, thus far, appears relatively tame, more of the order of a dull tussle between faculty and administration about procedural autonomy than about anything else.

The interventions of the Hindu right in the academic field, in India and more broadly, have generally fallen into the category of the absurd or the violent. The former is exemplified by the routine claims of the achievements of the ancient Hindu civilisation—Vedic aeroplanes, plastic surgery, intergalactic travel, and so on. The recently concluded 103rd edition of the Indian Science Congress, for instance, featured a bizarre conch-blowing performance by an officer of the elite IAS (Indian Administrative Service), ostensibly as an act of impeccable scientific merit.

Much more at the site.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Centauri Dreams considers the likely cometary explanation for KIC 8462852.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes an enigmatic dark spot on a white dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on China’s construction of a military base in Djibouti.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the man who promised to reduce the price of an HIV/AIDS medication that his company hiked has reneged.
  • Lawyers, Gins and Money notes that Trump was lying about protesting Muslims in New Jersey after 9/11.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of ethnic minorities in Ukraine, now and in 1926.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how the right won in Argentina.
  • Torontoist notes local initiatives to welcome Syrian refugees to Toronto.
  • Towleroad notes a Vietnamese trans right bill.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy observes that American states cannot ban Syrian refugees.
  • Window on Eurasia looks on a new Chinese railway passing from Xinjiang through Central Asia to Iran, and looks at the odd Communist-Christian-Muslim mélange being favoured in Russia.

[MUSIC] On why music matters so much, as shown by the Bataclan (#parisattacks)

There’s much still to be said about the November 2015 Paris attacks. One point I’d like to elaborate upon relates to the attack on the Bataclan theatre, where 89 people waiting for a performance of Eagles of Death Metal were murdered. A statement made in passing by American Secretary of State John Kerry, contrasting the Bataclan massacre with the Charlie Hebdo massacre by suggesting that whereas the latter attack had some rationale, the Bataclan attack was just pure terror. He later backtracked under criticism, as reported by The New York Times.

Secretary of State John Kerry is drawing criticism for contrasting the latest terror attacks in Paris with the mass shooting in January at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

“There’s something different about what happened with Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Mr. Kerry said on Tuesday, speaking without notes to American Embassy employees in the lobby of the embassy in Paris. “There was a sort of particularized focus, and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘O.K., they’re really angry because of this and that.’

“This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate,” he continued. “It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong; it was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for.”

Mr. Kerry’s comments were swiftly assailed by conservative critics in print and on social media. National Review called them “abhorrent” and “despicable.”

I’ve blogged here quite a lot over the years about the amount of meaning I derived and still derive from popular music, about how even when I was a solitary listener disconnected from fandom (and much else) I was able to get a sense of community and identity through pop music. (Eurythmics, thank you for helping me make it to my 20s.) Being a consumer of music is not the same kind of thing as being a producer of music, just as being a consumer of any cultural product is not the same as being a producer of any cultural product. Even so, the act of consumption matters: It’s a profound marker of identity, of the consumer’s voluntary decision to belong to a particular community. As noted by Spencer Kornhaber in The Atlantic, the communal enjoyment of music at a concert can be hugely enjoyable. It’s not for nothing that the rave has become so huge, I think.

Do you remember the article in The New Yorker that I linked to Monday, the one noting how Daesh used the traditions of Arabic poetry to accrue cultural capital? That article also noted that instrumental music is banned from the territories of the Islamic State, as un-Islamic. If the rich and vast and enormously popular tradition of Arabic popular music is actively rejected by Daesh, the people who listen to it or–worse–make it being subject to punishment, how much worse Western popular music? The concert-goers at the Bataclan were murdered because they had made the choice to reject the ideals of Daesh. They were martyrs.

Earlier this week, I shared a meme image on Facebook that happened to be built around what turns out to be an authentic quote from Salman Rushdie.

The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women’s rights, pluralism, secularism, short skits, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex. There are tyrants, not Muslims.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that we should now define ourselves not only by what we are for but by what we are against. I would reverse that proposition, because in the present instance what we are against is a no brainer. Suicidist assassins ram wide-bodied aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and kill thousands of people: um, I’m against that. But what are we for? What will we risk our lives to defend? Can we unanimously concur that all the items in the preceding list — yes, even the short skirts and the dancing — are worth dying for?

The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them.

How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.

Music matters. Let’s make the choice to have it matter even more.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 19, 2015 at 8:09 pm

[LINK] “ISIS wants to destroy the ‘grey zone’. Here’s how we defend it”

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed’s Open Democracy essay makes very important points about how to, and how not to, respond to the threat of ISIS.

ISIS’s choice of targets reveal a range of ideological motives – sectarian targeting of minorities like Shi’as, Kurds and Yazidis; striking in the heart of Muslim regimes that have joined the anti-ISIS coalition; as well as demonstrating the punitive consequences of attacking ISIS to western publics by hitting them at their most vulnerable, in bars, restaurants and music venues.

The goal, of course, is to inflict trauma, fear, paranoia, suspicion, panic and terror – but there is a particularly twisted logic as part of this continuum of violence, which is to draw the western world into an apocalyptic civilizational Armageddon with ‘Islam.’

ISIS recognizes that it has only marginal support amongst Muslims around the world. The only way it can accelerate recruitment and strengthen its territorial ambitions is twofold: firstly, demonstrating to Islamist jihadist networks that there is now only one credible terror game in town capable of pulling off spectacular terrorist attacks in the heart of the west, and two, by deteriorating conditions of life for Muslims all over the world to draw them into joining or supporting ISIS.

Both these goals depend on two constructs: the ‘crusader’ civilisation of the ‘kuffar’ (disbelievers) pitted against the authentic ‘Islamic’ utopia of ISIS.

In their own literature shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, ISIS shamelessly drew on the late Osama bin Laden’s endorsement of the words of President George W. Bush, to justify this apocalyptic vision: “The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 17, 2015 at 11:01 am

[LINK] The New Yorker on Daesh’s weaponization of Arabic poetry

As someone with a Master’s degree in English, Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel’s article in The New Yorker, “Battle Lines”, tells an unsettling tale about the successful appropriation by Daesh of some of the key features of Middle Eastern popular culture.

On October 11, 2014, according to Islamic State-affiliated Twitter accounts a woman going by the name Ahlam al-Nasr was married in the courthouse of Raqqa, Syria, to Abu Usama al-Gharib, a Vienna-born jihadi close to the movement’s leadership. ISIS social media rarely make marriage announcements, but al-Nasr and al-Gharib are a jihadi power couple. Al-Gharib is a veteran propagandist, initially for Al Qaeda and now for ISIS. His bride is a burgeoning literary celebrity, better known as “the Poetess of the Islamic State.” Her first book of verse, “The Blaze of Truth,” was published online last summer and quickly circulated among militant networks. Sung recitations of her work, performed a cappella, in accordance with ISIS’s prohibition on instrumental music, are easy to find on YouTube. “The Blaze of Truth” consists of a hundred and seven poems in Arabic—elegies to mujahideen, laments for prisoners, victory odes, and short poems that were originally tweets. Almost all the poems are written in monorhyme—one rhyme for what is sometimes many dozens of lines of verse—and classical Arabic metres.

Little is known about Ahlam al-Nasr, but it seems that she comes from Damascus and is now in her early twenties. Her mother, a former law professor, has written that al-Nasr “was born with a dictionary in her mouth.” She began writing poems in her teens, often in support of Palestine. When, in the spring of 2011, protests in Syria broke out against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, al-Nasr took the side of the demonstrators. Several poems suggest that she witnessed the regime’s crackdown at first hand and may have been radicalized by what she saw:

[. . .]

ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other Islamist movements produce a huge amount of verse. The vast majority of it circulates online, in a clandestine network of social-media accounts, mirror sites, and proxies, which appear and disappear with bewildering speed, thanks to surveillance and hacking. On militant Web sites, poetry-discussion forums feature couplets on current events, competitions among duelling poets, who try to outdo one another in virtuosic feats, and downloadable collections with scholarly accoutrements. (“The Blaze of Truth” includes footnotes that explain tricky syntax and unusual rhyme schemes.)

Analysts have generally ignored these texts, as if poetry were a colorful but ultimately distracting by-product of jihad. But this is a mistake. It is impossible to understand jihadism—its objectives, its appeal for new recruits, and its durability—without examining its culture. This culture finds expression in a number of forms, including anthems and documentary videos, but poetry is its heart. And, unlike the videos of beheadings and burnings, which are made primarily for foreign consumption, poetry provides a window onto the movement talking to itself. It is in verse that militants most clearly articulate the fantasy life of jihad.

“Al-shi‘r diwan al-‘arab,” runs an ancient maxim: “Poetry is the record of the Arabs”—an archive of historical experience and the epitome of their literature. The authority of verse has no rival in Arabic culture. The earliest poems were composed by desert nomads in the centuries before the revelation of the Koran. The poems are in monorhyme and one of sixteen canonical metres, making them easy to memorize. The poets were tribal spokesmen, celebrating the virtues of their kin, cursing their enemies, recalling lost loves, and lamenting the dead, especially those killed in battle. The Koran has harsh words for these pre-Islamic troubadours. “Only those who have strayed follow the poets,” the Surah of the Poets reads. “Do you not see that they wander lost in every valley, and say what they do not do?” But the poets could not be written off so easily, and Muhammad often found it useful to co-opt them. A number of tribal poets converted and became his companions, praising him in life and elegizing him after his death.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm

[FORUM] What do you think will come of the attacks in Paris? (#parisattacks)

It’s certain that the implications of the Paris attack will reverberate globally. What I truly, sincerely, hope is that in doing so, they might provide the world with a sort of do-over of 9/11. Instead of lapsing into pointless militarism and a clash of civilizations thinking, I would hope that maybe, just maybe, we as a world might be able to move against ISIS. I fear this won’t happen, but I think there’s still space for me to hope.

What about you? What do you think will happen?

Written by Randy McDonald

November 14, 2015 at 11:58 pm