Friday, 29 November 2013

What is Sufism?

Most men are content to accept the world as it appears to them, whereas a noble minority wishes to tear away the veil of appearances so as to behold the true nature of things. This is not hyperbole; this has been the main philosophical project of all our great thinkers. Kant, who was perhaps the greatest philosopher since Aristotle, attempted to grasp the reality behind the appearances, and he was forced to draw to a rather depressing conclusion: the real did not admit of being apprehended by man - it was forever to remain the unknowable x.

The hopeless romantic that Kant was, he was not to give up so easily. Because the world as it really is cannot be known, man is better off concentrating on acting in such way that the world becomes as it should be. What had begun as a ambitious metaphysical project, degenerated into a rather pitiable kind of moralism: with the introduction of his thou shalt, Kant had reverted to the Pietism of his childhood. If Kant had been an Orthodox Christian, his solution is likely to have been very different from the one offered to him by his Pietist tutors.

According to Orthodox Christianity, the ultimate reality is knowable and there are methods that can be employed by man so as penetrate beyond the world of appearances. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the favoured method is known as Hesychasm. With recourse to breathing exercices, man can attain an altered state of consciousness, and while in this state, man can know things that otherwise would have remained unknown to him.

Hesychasm is a method with some striking similararities with the technique employed by the Hindu yogis: (i) the vairocana posture aids us in regulating our breathing with a view to avoiding aimless volition, while (ii) ekagrata enables us to concentrate all our energies on a single point. Hesychasm recommends the formula "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" in conjunction with inhalation and exhalation. In carrying out this respiratory exercise, it is recommended that one does not follow the manual on which one is relying too mechanically. The right breathing technique is acquired by means of trial and error, and it will take you approximately six months to master it. Here it must be emphasised that your ability to acquire this technique is wholly dependent on your mental constitution and character. Some people are contemplatives by nature, with a strong aptitutde for concentration, which is a prerequisite to rigorous philosophical thinking, whereas others are men of action with restlessness dwelling inside them. The latter are men who excel in the active realm, and they have little to gain from any dabbling in mysticism.

Russia, the land of a polymorphic race with a strong propensity to mysticism, is today the main custodian of the Christian Orthodox mysticism. In tune with the somewhat erratic Russian character, Hesychasm in Russia assumed an almost Dionysian form qua the whirling dances of the Khlysti. Those Russian Orthodox Christians who are tempted write off the Khlysti as heretics, tend to forget that almost all Russian saints of note lived on the edges of orthodoxy, with a behaviour so startlingly unconventional that these extraordinary men came to be known as Fools for Christ.

It is worth noting that the former Soviet Union is also the heartland of Sufism. It is my view that both Sufism and Hesychasm has found fertile ground precisely in those territories where shamanism has been the main vehicle of religious expression. Shamanism is the original religion of the whole mankind, and every religious tradition that followed had no choice but to submit to this primordial religion. Both Christianity and Islam have accomodated shamanism to such a degree, that shamanistic techniques, such as the erratic Hesychasm of the Russian Fools for Christ and the Sufis with their equally erratic sessions of Dhikr (remembrance of God), are considered paragons of Orthodoxy.

Contrary to the popular view, Sufism is not a heterodox sect within Islam. Sufism forms an integral part of Islam. Indeed, Sunni Islam and Sufism are inseparable. The only Muslims who reject Sufism are the Salafists of Saudi Arabia and the equally odious Shia fundamentalists of Iran. The Sufis are persecuted in both Saudi Arabia and Iran; in both of the mentioned countries, the tombs of the Sufi saints are desecrated by the authorities.

We turn now to the question of what Sufism is. Here I leave it to Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), perhaps the finest Muslim philosopher and the author of one of the greatest books ever penned: the glorious al-Muqaddima, to explain its essence:

'There are men who attempt to obtain supernatural perception through exercise. They attempt an artificial (state of) death through self-mortification. They kill all corporeal powers (in themselves), and wipe out all influences of those powers that color the soul in various ways. This is achieved by concentrated thinking, and doing without food for long (periods). It is definitely known that when death descends upon the body, sensual perception and the veil it constitutes disappear, and the soul beholds its essence and its world. (These men) attempt to produce, artificially before death, the experience they will have after death, and to have their soul behold the supernatural. Other such people are the men who train themselves in sorcery. They train themselves in these things, in order to be able to behold the supernatural and to be active in the various worlds. Many (Sufis) shun (supernatural perception) when it accidentally happens to them, and pay no attention to it. They want God only for the sake of His essence, and nothing else. It is well known that (supernatural perception) occurs among the (Sufis). They call their supernatural experiences and mind reading "physiognomy" (firasah) and "removal" (of the veil of sense perception, kashf). Their experiences of (supernatural) activity they call "acts of divine grace" (karamah). None of these things is unworthy of them.'

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Russia and Baathism

Russia's approach to the Middle East is marked by caution and pragmaticism. The absence of a clearly defined policy towards the Middle East is no doubt owing to the many disappointments experienced by Russia in her dealings with this region. Russia's three major disappointments in the Middle East were as follows:

(i) The Israeli Failure: The Soviet Union was supportive of the Zionist project and strongly favoured the creation of a binational state in which Arabs and Jews would enjoy equal rights. The procession towards a Middle Eastern homeland for the Jews had already been initiated by the British; so far as the Soviet Union was concerned, it was a matter of thwarting the British plans of creating a outpost of settlers subservient to Anglo-American interests in the midst of the Arabs. The leaders of the Soviet Union wished to oversee the creation of a binational state which would be sympathetic to their aims in the Middle East. Things did not turn out quite as Soviet Union had planned: not only was Israel intent on pursuing a foreign policy running counter to Soviet interests; the Zionist state was also hell-bent on bringing about an exodus of the Soviet Jews, which would result in the Soviet Union's being drained of some of its brightest minds. Golda Meir, an Ukrainian Jewess and Israel's ambassador to the Soviet Union, discarded every conceivable notion of diplomatic etiquette during her time in the Soviet Union. Well aware of the strong support for the state of Israel amongst the Soviet Jews, she took her lobbying on behalf of the Zionist state to extreme lengths by behaving like a celebrity rather than a diplomat. In her interactions with the Soviet Jews she made no secret of the fact that she wanted them to emigrate to the state of Israel. Being a Jewess of the ghetto, Golda Meir looked upon the assimilated Jews of the Soviet Union with contempt: to the Soviet intellectual Ilya Ehrenburg, who was an assimilated Jew fiercely proud of his motherland, Meir made it known that she "[did] not like [...] Jews who knew neither Hebrew nor Yiddish." Ehrenburg, infuriated by Meir's insolence, had a biting retort in store for the Jewess of the ghetto: "you, madam, are an American agent" (cf. Losurdo: 2012, p. 282). Stalin soon came to realise that Israel was on the verge of becoming an albatross around his neck: not only was Israel showing an increasing predilection for the Western powers; the Soviet Union was at risk of becoming alienated from the Arab world as well. A crackdown on Zionist sympathisers amongst the Soviet Jews took place; the extent of this crackdown is illustrated by the fact that Molotov's Jewish wife was sent to the gulag for greeting Meir too heartily at a Jewish gathering. The Soviet Union's decisive turn against Israel came about in 1956 when it sided with Nasser's Egypt against the Anglo-French-Israeli coalition during the Suez War. And in 1967 the Soviet Union reaffirmed its commitment to the Arab cause during the Six Day War.

(ii) The Iraqi Failure: The toppling of Abdul Karim Qassem's unabashedly leftist and pro-Soviet regime in Iraq by the Baathists taught the Soviet Union another important lesson: there was a limit to how far to the political left the Arabs would be willing to go. The Soviet Union came to realise that Baathism was the best they could hope for in Arab world. Pragmaticism was called for in regard to the Arabs; and the Baathists were certainly preferable to the Islamic fundamentalists. Henceforth, the Soviet policy would be to support secular-nationalist elements in the Arab world, and there was a clear red line which the Soviet would never cross: to side with Islamic-fundamentalist forces in the Arab world. The Soviet Union's decidedly anti-Islamist posture is in stark contrast to the policies of the Americans, which, according to Yevgeny Primakov, consisted in supporting "those who not only stood up for Muslim values but were willing to resort to terrorist methods to do so."

(iii) The Egyptian Failure: In 1976 Anwar Sadat cancelled the Soviet-Egyptian friendship treaty and expelled all Soviet military advisers from the country in his endeavours to placate the Americans and the Israelis. This political humiliation made the Soviet Union more circumspect than ever in relation to the Middle East.

In the light of the mentioned Soviet-Russian failures in the Middle East, it is only to be expected that the Russians will exercise extreme prudence in regard to Syria. Even so, the civil war in Syria matters to Russia, because the outcome to this conflict could potentially have repurcussions within Russia. Anything perceived as an Islamist victory could serve as an inspiration to sectarian forces in several former Soviet republics as well as within Russia proper. The fact that Islamist fighters from Kazakhstan and the Caucasus are present in Syria is a cause for great concern, and the return of these terrorists to their countries of origin must be prevented at all costs.

The Syrian civil war is dragging on not only because of structural contradictions that were long present within the society, viz., the Alawite minority's shameless propensity to self-aggrandisement; the interference of several foreign powers is a far more important reason as to why this conflict is as protracted as it is. Of foremost interest in this regard are the roles of Saudi Arabia and Iran:

Saudi Arabia: As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, it is a matter of settling ideological scores with the Baathists, asserting one's leadership of the Arab world, and countering Iranian influence in Syria. A far more sinister aspect to the Saudi role is this nation's desire to export its Salafist brand of Islam to Syria with a view to undermining the latter's laudable commitment to secularism.

Iran: Iran is an enemy of the Arabs and Syria is Iran's main gateway to the Arab world. Iran's machinations in Syria are rooted in Iranian fears of the emergence of a cohesive political force amongst the Arabs, as such a force is likely to clash with Iran sooner or later, considering that Iran is currently in possession of territories to which the Arabs have repeatedly laid claim on ethno-historic grounds (cf. Khuzestan and Shatt al-Arab). Given these fears, Iran is more than pleased with a division of the Arab world along sectarian lines.

The key to ending the civil war in Syria is the curtailing of the influence of both the Saudis and the Iranians. The ideal way of concluding this civil war would be by means of preserving the Baathist rule while making significant political concessions to the Sunni majority of Syria at the same time. Such an objective can be attained by supporting Sunni elements within the Baath Party of Syria with a view to facilitating an internal coup. In such a scheme of things, Russia could play a decisive role. Baathism is still a horse worth betting on; Russia should get rid of the jockey and keep the horse.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Shia Good, Sunni Bad?

A regrettable misconception currently in vogue amongst many who claim to understand the Islamic world is that the Shias are somehow more liberal than the Sunnis. Such a manner of viewing things seems to be partly effected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, where the Sunni side has been guilty of barbaric acts of wellnigh epic proportions. Even so, the mentioned misconception must be dispelled sooner rather than later, because our ability to develop a cordial relationship with the Islamic world hinges on whether we succeed in reaching out to the Sunni majority or not.

Contrary to popular conception, the Sunni majority is not at all sympathetic to the theocratic aspirations of the monarchs of the Gulf and their Salafi-Hanbali henchmen. Salafism represents a minority within Sunni Islam, but owing to the fact that the Salafists are heavily funded with petrodollars and weapons by the monarchies of the Gulf as well as the Anglo-Americans, e.g., in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria, they are a vocal minority exercising political influence to a degree far in excess of their actual numerical strength.

The Sunni majority adheres to the Hanafi school of law. It is interesting to note that the Hanafi school of law is predominant in the non-Arabic regions of the Islamic world: Turkey, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, South Asia, and Afghanistan. The Hanafi school of law has been successful in abstracting the essence Islam from the tribal context in which it arose; this is to say that it has carried out a de-arabisation of Islam. In doing so, the Hanafi school of law has given its variety of Sunni Islam a distinctly cosmopolitian outlook in contradistinction to the tribal Islam of the Hanbalis. The Hanafis are renowned for their creative interpretation of the precepts of Islam with a view to making religion compatible with time and circumstance. Furthermore, the Hanafi school of law permits its adherents to pray in their native languages rather than in Arabic. This freedom of choice in the realm of liturgy is of pivotal importance; for instance, I can envisage a future Islam in Russia, where the Muslims recite their prayers in their native Russian tongue rather than in Arabic.

As regards the rich intellectual heritage of Islam, it must be emphasised that the Sunnis have always been its main proponents and custodians: all the great philosophers of Islam - Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Rushd, Ibn-Sina, Al-Ghazzali, Ibn-Khaldun, and Rumi - were Sunnis. Likewise, mystical Islam or Sufism is accepted by the Hanafis as an integral part of their Islamic heritage, whereas it is rejected as a heresy by the Hanbalis.

The Shias, like the Salafists, represent the polarising forces in the Islamic world. The monarchies of the Gulf are not the sole obtstacles to unity in the Islamic world; Iran is as great a stumbling block in this respect. The double-dealing nature of the Mullahs in Qom should be obvious to anyone who has taken the time to study the history of this country. The denunciation of Israel is a weekly event in Iran, but this seemingly uncompromising anti-Zionism did not prevent the Iranians from cooperating with Israel against both the Soviet Union and Iraq (cf. the destruction of Osirak). Similarly, America may be the Great Satan in the geo-theological scheme of things, but the Iranians have never been averse to striking deals with their arch-enemy either, as seen in the case of the Iran-Contra affair. In the light of this dubious track record of Iran, both Russia and China would be well advised to approach this country with the greatest caution.

In order to understand the double-dealing nature of the Iranians one must familiarise oneself certain core theological and jurisprudential concepts of Shia Islam. Two such concepts are zahir and batin. The English equivalents of these concepts are apparent and hidden, visible and occult, or exoteric and esoteric. What you would do well to note regarding the modus operandi of the Shias is that they are able to combine a seemingly liberal exterior with a veiled fundamentalistic adherence to the dogmae of their religion. In many Muslim countries, the Shias are prominent in the showbiz industry, thus leaving one with the optical illusion that the Shias are liberal or westernised, whereas the Sunnis are puritans enslaved by a medieval mindset. This optical illusion has a great deal to do with the Shias' all too frequent recourse to Taqiyya, a concept which is central to Shia jurisprudence and only of peripheral importance to the jurisprudence of the Sunnis. Given the fact that the Shias are a minority in most countries, it is permissible for them to conceal their religious affiliations so as to avoid persecution, but there is no denying that these tactics of dissimulation are subject to misuse. Sham conversions to Christianity, particularly amongst the Shias, is not an unheard of phenomenon amongst asylum seekers in many Western countries. Taqiyya, in this case, serves the purpose of furthering one's economic-existential interests rather than guarding one against persecution. An interesting example in this regard is the Iranian scholar Reza Aslan who - so it seems to me - converted to Evangelical Christianity in order to carve out an academic career for himself as a biblical scholar, and reverted to being a Shia upon attaining his ph.D. I have visited many an Islamic country, from Maghreb to Malaysia, and I am yet to see any evidence of the Shias' being more liberal than the Sunnis. To the contrary, during the month of Muharram I have seen Shia mobs march through Sunni neighbourhoods while hurling insults at those Islamic khalifs whom they do not consider the legitimate successors to Muhammed; this spectacle is very much reminiscent of the Orangemen who march through Catholic neighbourhoods with the primary purpose of flexing their sectarian muscle. The Shias are essentially a sect within Islam and do not deserve to be treated on an equal footing with the Sunni majority. The very word Shia means party or faction; this self-designation in itself tells us something about the sectarian ethos of the Shias. This sectarian ethos of the Shias is radically at odds with the ecumenism of the Sufis, who are no strangers to praying alongside Christians and Buddhists in Central Asia. And we would do well to note that the Sufis are currently being persectuted in Iran. Sectarianism also informs the foreign policy of the Iranians, who did not lift a finger in support of Gadaffi - a man who had advocated the case of Iran at the Arab League summits on more than one occasion; the ingratitude of the Iranians in this regard was beneath contempt. The only occasions on which the Mullahs of Qom voice their indignation is when their fellow Shias are under fire, be it in Syria or in Bahrain. The same sectarianism can be witnessed amongst the Shias of the Arabic nations: they seem more interested in singing the praises of their Mullahs in Qom than worrying about the well-being of the countries in which they actually reside.

There are two internal sources of all the ills of the Islamic world: one is Saudi Arabia and the other is Iran. It is incumbent on the Muslims to do their utmost to repel the incursions of both the Salafists and the pro-Iranian Shias into their countries. As for the Sunnis, it is worth pointing out that it is amongst these people that the future allies of both Russia and China are to be sought. It bespeaks an appalling nescience of Russia's true intentions to think that Putin is walking out on a limb for Assad. From a Russian point of view, it is far more important to preserve the Baathist structure in Syria than to perpetuate the rule of Assad and his Alawite clan. Assad is dispensable; Baathism is not. Indeed, the very future of the Islamic world is dependent on whether it can find a secular-nationalist alternative à la Baathism to a tribal Islamism or not.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Roots of Western Multiculturalism

Being in a state of denial is the lot of most men, and blaming others for one's own shortcoming is another common vice to be encountered amongst the featherless bipeds. Strip away the veneer of civility, and what you will find is an odious freak of nature. There are those who say that man's being beholden to a magical worldview is a thing of the past; this is not at all the case. The modern man is no different from the most uncouth savage. The savage would view all phenomena as the works of intelligent agencies; if living humans did not bring something about, it had to be the work of beings from the spirit world. If something contrary to man's intentions or desires came about, he would hold the demons of the netherworld responsible for his misfortune. Did you ever wonder why the devil is portrayed as the genius par excellence? Man is so in denial of his own stupidity that he has the audacity to think that it requires nothing less than an ingenuity of truly cosmic proportions to outwit him.

Multiculturalism is an important social fact to be reckoned with in all Western countries. According to Vladimir Putin, who is a very wise man, there are two different varieties of multiculturalism to be encountered in our world. The first kind is the organic multiculturalism of Russia, whereas the other is a Western variety of multiculturalism - which is a product of Western colonialism. The former kind of multiculturalism has developed naturally during the course of many centuries, whereas the latter kind of multiculturalism has been forced upon the world by the West.

The black man did not arrive in America of his own accord; he was dragged to these distant shores. Likewise, millions of Chinese and Indian kulis were uprooted from their own lands to meet the Western demands of cheap labour. Furthermore, the Western nations enlisted millions of brown and black soldiers to settle imperial disputes with one another; when the French occupied Ruhr, they deliberately took recourse to black soldiers in order put the following point across to the Germans: "you are lower than the lowest."

As regards the question of immigration, the following must be remembered:

Traditionally it is the rightist parties of the West that have tacitly welcomed immigrants, because it provides them with ample supply of cheap labour, whereas the true bastions of the Left, the labour unions, have opposed immigration on the grounds that it adds to the plight of the workers in terms of lowering their wages. Just as there is migration within the states from the countryside to the cities in tune with the altering of the economic relations, so there is emigration from one state to another. If people do not like seeing Afghans, Pakistanis, and Arabs in their countries, then I suggest that they try to eradicate this problem by going to the root of the issue: stop bombing them, allow these nations to diversify their economies, do not meddle in their internal affairs, do not steal their natural resources, and do not drain them of their best minds.

What is known as multiculturalism in the modern Western societies is no more than a feeble attempt at limiting the damage done long years ago. In the wake of the colonial liberation two impending dangers occupied the Western mind:

(i) Would there be a racial backlash against the Western world?

and:

(ii) Would the former colonies follow in the footsteps of Russia and embrace communism?

The spread of communism had to be stopped at all costs, even if it meant abandoning the long-cherished ideals of racial segregation. In other words, multiculturalism was forced upon the West:

"[T]he Soviet Union had an enviable record on race relations. [...] The Soviet Union had no difficulty in presenting racism as a distinctly Western problem." (F.F.)

But the modern Western man is quite unwilling to assume the responsibility for his own follies; rather he will assign the blame to an imaginary foe called Cultural Marxism, much in the same way as the primitive man would attribute all his woes to the Devil. To the Western man I have the following to say: multiculturalism is of your own making. How did this come to pass? Blame your own stupidity and that of your forefathers. The devil does not exist. And having your women impregnated by the black man is but a small price to pay for your not so New World Order.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Are Russians Racists?

"Avoid the faults of your nation." This is a dictum of Balthasar Gracian. No nation is unblemished and Russia is no exception to this rule. Very few nations surpass the Russians when it comes to self-criticism. Repentence is not only a central concept to the theology of the Russian Orthodox Church: echoes of it can be heard in the folk songs, the novels of Dostoyevsky, and even in the five-year plans of Stalin. When Stalin urged the citizens of the Soviet Union to do their utmost to industrialise the nation, he pointed to the past follies of the rulers and the ruled alike, and now the hour of decision of the come: if the Russians did not rise up from their semi-vegetative state, the Soviet Union would be crushed by the Anglo-American imperialists. The village idiots of Russia, still reeking of alcohol, awoke from their slumber and industrialised the nation. More than this: they developed the nuclear bomb. And just when the Americans thought they had the upper hand qua technology, the village idiots shot Gagarin into space.

The first Russian village idiot of note to rise up against tyranny was Yemelyan Pugachev (1742-1775). The man may have been an illiterate goon, but he was also a shrewd politician. The French aristocrat Joseph de Maistre, who despised all revolutionaries, closely monitored the exploits of Pugachev and viewed the success of the village idiot as an omen of the coming deluge. "The Pugachev of the future", said de Maistre, would not be Pugachev the Village Idiot; he would be the "Pugachev of the University." How right de Maistre was: both Lenin and Stalin were intellectuals. Lenin mastered the works of Marx and Hegel as a very young man, whereas Stalin, for his part, was a product of the Russian Orthodox Church. Educated at a seminary, he received classical education of the highest order. Stalin's appetite for philosophy and literature was almost superhuman, and he would read the dialogues of Plato in classical Greek. Lenin and Stalin were not only intellectuals; both men were also deeply practical. Balance of power and strategies of tension were no longer the pastimes of seasoned imperialists; the Bolshevik upstarts could play these games of life and death just as well. This prompted the reactionary German social philosopher Oswald Spengler to remark that Russia had finally thrown off her European mask; hidden underneath the mask was the bloodthirsty Mongol. Because Russia had revolted against the imperial order of the West, she would have to pay for her disobedience by being ostracised from the community of the civilised Western nations. This quasi-theological narrative can be discerned in virtually every Western monograph treating of Russia's past: Russia is good to the extent that she is European and evil to the extent that she is Asian. Such a crude narrative tells us very little about Russia, but it tells us a great deal about the inveterate provincialism of Russia's enemies.

It is true: Russia - or the former Soviet Union - is the land of extremes. The dialectical philosophies of Hegel and Marx, which sought to reconcile opposites, were congenial to the Russians. The problem of Faust was also the problem of Russia:

"Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
Sich an die Welt mit klammernden Organen;
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen."

The philosophies of Hegel and Marx sought to bring this contradiction to naught, and this was precisely the kind of remedy needed in Russia, the land of contradictions. She was the land of repentent aristocrats with money to burn, who abandoned all their wealth to live amongst the poor - as the poor. Yet Russia was also the land of the pogroms, where the dregs of the society would be subjected to the kind of treatment that would have made a Nazi gnash his teeth in dread: Jewish teenage girls would be gang-raped and bayonets would be rammed up their vaginae. Little seems to have changed in modern Russia: some years ago a beautiful Tajik girl, no more than nine years of age, was stabbed to death by Russian teenagers in Sankt Petersburg. This Tajik girl, with white skin and European traits, would not have been touched if her father had looked European. But because her father was a black-haired Tajik, she had to pay with her life. Once again Russia is divided: 50% of the Russians are xenophobic, whereas 50% of the Russians do not mind foreigners. What Lenin and Stalin had united is once again out of joint.

The Soviet Union used to be known as the Affirmative Action Empire. Soviet Union's track record in regard to her minorities is something of which every Russian has reason to be proud. When the Czarist Russia came tumbling down, there were approximately 50 recognised ethnic groups in Russia, whereas during the heyday of Stalin, there were more than 150 recognised ethnic groups in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, because many of these ethnic groups had no written language of their own, new written languages were developed under the auspices of the state. The achievements of the Soviet Union prompted the Italian statesman Alcide de Gaspari (1881-1954) - a Christian-Democrat to boot - to utter the following words:

"Upon seeing how Hitler and Mussolini persecuted people because of their race and promulgated those terrifying race-laws, and at the same time upon seeing how the Russians, who comprise 160 races, endeavour to bring together these different races in the name of social unity, I must also say this: this is Christian; this is eminently universal in its true Catholic sense."

The Soviet Union was a well-functioning - by no means flawless - multinational empire until the reign of Gorbachev. Gorbachev, who was a third-rate Marxist and unfit for the task of statesmanship, failed to perceive the obvious: ideas do have consequences. The pseudo-democratic reforms forced through by Gorbachev with a view to bringing about a more transparent society turned out to be a self-defeating enterprise. At the Russian universities there was an increasing interest in the pre-Marxist philosophical traditions of Russia; an intellectual engagement harmless enough in itself and even beneficial to those who care for such lofty matters. Most philosophical ideas, clad in a jargon incomprehensible to the hoi polloi, seldom carry with them any repurcussions at societal level. Ideas with social consequences are those tailor-made for public consumption. The two most dangeous ideas to infect the Russian society during the reign of Gorbachev were those of liberalism and nationalism.

Liberalism was viewed as the magic potion that would cure the Russian society of all its ills. The implementation of liberalism entailed economic reforms and a free press. As soon as these two criteria had been met, wealth and happiness would follow as matter of course. This was the American dream in action - Russky style. What was not known to the Russians was the dark side of liberalism: a murderous ideology that viewed freedom as a privilege rather than a fundamental human right; an ideology that championed slavery and the immiseration of its own working classes so that the privileged few could lead a life of luxury.

The other dangerous Western idea to take root in Russia and Eastern Europe at large was a disease with which the white Anglo-Americans seem to be more afflicted than any other race: the idea of racial supremacy. Here it should be kept in mind that eugenics and the implementation of other pseudo-scientific measures with a view to maintaining racial purity were not the inventions of the German Nazis. These were ideas that were in vogue in both England and the United States long before they were adopted by the Nazis. American white supremacists such as David Duke, presumably nauseated by the sheer number of black faces on the television screen, began to look to the Russian nation as the paragon of white pride. The Russian, who heretofore had oscillated between being a white European and a slit-eyed Mongol, depending on whether he followed the dictates of the West or not, was once again being touted as a worthy son of the West. Concurrent with this farcical spectacle another drama was unfolding on the periphery of the Soviet Empire: the spread of Islamism in the predominantly Muslim regions and the whipping up of anti-Russian sentiments amongst the Ukrainians in particular, not least by courtesy of the British historian and counter-intelligence asset Robert Conquest, whose spurious revelations concerning the Russian genocide of the Ukrainians were widely circulated in the Ukrainian society. What was happening was plain to every Soviet citizen with a discerning mind: the enemies of the Soviet Union were polarising the different ethnic groups so as to bring about the dissolution of the state, even at the cost of a civil war. In Tajikistan alone the civil war cost more than 100.000 lives.

This was the divided society in which Russian racism arose. During the woeful nineties, when the only known law was that of the jungle, the strong prevailed and the weak perished. Given these harsh circumstances, it was hardly suprising that the rugged men of the Caucasus dominated the streets of Russia. The same law of the jungle also hardened the Russian: the neglected children of alcoholised parents became ruthless xenophobes. But to understand a social phenomenon does not mean that one condones it. Racism in Russia is a security threat and should be treated accordingly. A divided Russia cannot survive and this is something that Vladimir Putin and I understand better than most people. You know what I think; upon reading the following words of Putin you will come to realise that all great men think alike:

"[N]ationalists must remember that Russia was formed specifically as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country from its very inception. Nationalists must remember that by calling into question our multi-ethnic character, and exploiting the issue of Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Siberian or any other nationalism or separatism, means that we are starting to destroy our genetic code. In effect, we will begin to destroy ourselves. [M]ulticulturalism and multi-ethnicity lives in our historical consciousness, in our spirit and in our historical makeup. Our state was built in the course of a millennium on this organic model. After consolidating our national identity, strengthening our roots, and remaining open and receptive to the best ideas and practices of the East and the West, we must and will move forward."

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Understanding Magic and Prayer

"If you pray for aught, your prayer comes to naught.
If you pray for naught, you pray as you ought."
(Meister Eckhart)


Prayer is a fascinating phenomenon, the true nature of which seems to escape most people, religious goons and atheist fools alike. This phenomenon requires of us excursions not only into the realm of psychology; philosophical and ethnological investigations are as necessary. In dealing with a commonplace cultural phenomenon, the rationale of which is not apparent, etymology can render us some service. The word prayer is derived from the Latin verb precari ("to implore" or "to beg"). Prayer is an act implying a power relation; the one who prays assumes a submissive posture vis-à-vis the force to which he prays. Upon making this discovery, we will have to determine if this designation of prayer as a submissive act of imploration is universally applicable to the different religious traditions of mankind, and it will not take us long to realise that this is not at all the case. There are religious traditions of the world where one does not communicate with the supernatural forces by means of genuflections and implorations, but rather with recourse to confident coercion. The power relation remains in the latter case, but the roles have been reversed: this time it is man who is ruler rather than the ruled. He commands and nature obeys. Such a man is known as a magician. Again etymology is of interest to us: the word magic is derived from the Old Persian root magh- ("to be able to" or "to have power").

In our cultural context the concepts of magic and prayer are understood, whether consciously or subconsciously, as being to antithetical to one another: a magician is a scam artist who pulls rabbits out of his hat or he is the evil genius to be encountered in fairytales. Whereas magic has been discredited as a failed art, prayer does not meet with the same derision. Prayer is a necessary corollary to religiosity and even those of us who are atheists have come to accept it as a social fact.

My investigations of the phenomena known as magic and prayer have led me to conclude that the dichotomisation of the two is wholly unjustified. Consider for instance the Holy Mass of the Catholics: the priest does not bow down and beg his Lord that the wine and host be transformed into the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ, lest he make a public fool of himself. Far from it: in the manner of a true magician, the priest mechanically recites certain formulae, and with their recital the wine and the host are transformed into the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ as a matter of necessity.

The medieval mind was far more conscious of the magical properties of the Holy Mass than is the present age. The Holy Mass qua magical ceremony came to be both ridiculed - as testified by the formula hocus pocus, which is a parody of the eucharistic formula hoc es corpus - and reinterpreted. The most interesting reinterpretation of the Holy Mass is the Mass of Saint Secaire, still celebrated by bored elites in some parts of the world. The objective of the Mass of St Secaire is to kill a foe by supernatural means. The mass must be celebrated in abandoned churches only, all the eucharistic formulae are to be recited backwards, and the celebrant is to make the sign of the cross with his left foot. With the conclusion of the Mass of St Secaire your foe shall be as dead as a dodo.

Magic and prayer are neither essentially different nor antithetical phenomena; rather they represent two phases to the intellectual evolution of mankind (more on which in due course). Furthermore, as the example of the Holy Mass shows, magical techniques are utilised by those who claim to be the most fervent opponents of all forms of magic. Indeed, the dichotomisation of magic and prayer is a concoction of the Church and it stems from those times when the stiffest resistance to the incursions of the Christian missionaries was offered by the shaman chieftains of the pagan tribes. The shaman was intellectually superior to the Christian priest, because unlike the latter, who had acquired his knowledge of things spiritual in the seminary, the former had acquired his knowledge amidst all the contradictions that the human existence brings with it. In this regard, the following words of a famous anthropologist are worth pondering:

"The shaman learned a physiological control of his body functions normally considered automatic. Like a youthful Yogi, he was shown ways to produce states of inspiration through controlled-breathing exercises. Whirling dances and repetition of phrases combined to change temperature levels [of the body] and to produce trance. In our eagerness to know everything about the physical world from apes to atoms, we have neglected one aspect of science which requires no laboratory and no instruments, only the human body. Primitive men [or shamans], lacking laboratories and instruments, studied it exhaustively."

Because the Christian missionaries had met with a superior foe, they were at pains to carry out a character assassination of this proto-philosopher. Those of us who have read centuries-old reports written by the dumbfounded missionaries, cannot help noticing the genuine dread felt by these representatives of the Church. The Holy Mass virtually always left the pagans unimpressed, whereas the shaman's show of force was very real indeed. Here was an intellectually brilliant man who could be as ruthless a politician as a Cesar Borgia, and in addition to his resourcefulness in regard to human interaction, he had also learnt certain secrets about the human organism, such as the ability to arrest some of one's bodily functions. With this humiliating encounter of the Church with primitive shamanism begins the assault on magic, which henceforth would come to be viewed as something demonic emanating from the very pit of hell. But as we have already seen, the Church has never been averse to employing magical techniques herself.

The preceding reflections should enable us to offer an adequate appraisal of the phenomena known as magic and prayer:

(i) Magic is no laughing matter: Those who ridicule magic tend to forget that modern science is an outgrowth of magic. Magic is the study of causality, not merely of causes perceivable, but also an attempt at coming to terms with objects understood as exercising causality from a distance. "Wherever", according to another anthropologist, "magic occurs in its pure unadulterated form, it assumes that in nature one event follows another necessarily [...]. Thus its fundamental conception is identical with that of modern science [.] The fatal flaw of magic lies not in its general assumption of a sequence of events determined by law, but in its total misconception of the particular laws which govern that sequence." In some primitive societies, many human acts are preceded by the strangest rituals, e.g., a hunter will move his body in a manner akin to the animal at which he aims his spear, so as to align his efforts with the cosmic forces with a view to attaining his objective. Similarly, the ancient science of alchemy was primarily a magical endeavour, but as a secondary outcome to the intentions of the practitioners of the this art, mankind also made discoveries in the field of chemistry. Likewise, astrology may have been a failed science, but it must also be credited for its discoveries in the field of astronomy.

(ii) Prayer as magical defeatism: Although we are indebted to the primitive magician for his discoveries relevant to modern science, there was one field in which the magician failed miserably: he had no solution to the problem of death, the most primordial of all human fears. Instead of commanding the cosmic forces, man now resorted to begging and kneeling.

(iii) Praying as Meister Eckhart: As it turned out, prayer was as futile an undertaking as magic. The gods would not listen; perhaps they did not even exist? Prayer finally became an end in itself. Indeed, it was no longer prayer, but rather contemplation. In the case of Buddha, this contemplation was devoid of any object, whereas in the case of Meister Eckhart, a brilliant man constrained by the dictates of the Church, one prayed for naught. The aim of this contemplation was not to commune with the gods, but to make discoveries about oneself, much in the same way as the primitive shamans had done. Those who have experienced states of deep contemplation, in which one has been able to shut out the world, will testify to a heightened sensibility: one smells, hears, and feels with a degree of intensity heretofore deemed impossible. In such a state of heightened sensibility, the feeble-minded amongst us - women in particular - are strongly susceptible to hallucinations. The strong-minded amongst us, on the other hand, engage in an activity primarily of an intellectual nature, viz., ordering one's train of thought and tracing one's thoughts to their root causes all the while one's sense of duration, or time, is at a standstill. Such an activity may not seem worth the effort for the uneducated, but to those who value intellectual activity, contemplation is a boon one simply cannot afford to reject. Furthermore, the knowledge acquired in the state of contemplation could be of such a nature that it admits of being acquired by no other means. And if Kant was right in suggesting that time is merely a prerequisite to man's ability to know, and that time as such does not exist, then, to the contemplative, who is able to suspend duration, the past, the present, and the future are as one. Precisely the ability to break free from the shackles of time and to know the past, the present, and the future has been the prerogative of the great contemplatives throughout the ages.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Cultural Marxism the Bugbear

Cultural Marxism is another fine compound term serving the purpose of unlocking the secrets of the universe to those who have taken the time to familiarise themselves with all that this term signifies. The term Cultural Marxism is not in use in academic circles in Europe, and those who are foolish enough to advocate the usage of this term in an academic context can count on their ostracisation. The situation is not quite the same in the US: in a country where a coquettish creature like Ayn Rand is considered a great philosopher, some scholars also have the audacity to approvingly use this term in their academic publications.

Cultural Marxism's rise to fame as a hermeneutic device was by courtesy of a Norwegian of a rather dubious repute, and this should make it plain why the academic usage of this term will always be frowned upon in Europe. Anders Behring Breivik is not only a mass-murderer; he is also the quintessential representative of a new generation of scholars. These scholars are all autodidacts, the Google search engine is their muse, Wikipedia their Bible, Youtube their pulpit, and copy-paste their revolutionary method of exegesis.

Breivik's worldview is that of a sorcerer. This Norwegian's highest achievement in life was the position of a customer service representative in a call-centre, he had no academic credentials, he was a failed businessman, and even his Ukrainian mail-order bride-to-be deemed him not good enough. While rotting away in a call-centre, Breivik came to realise that only a conspiracy of cosmic proportions could explain why his life was as wretched as it was. The coming to grips with this maleficent force required that Breivik make his descent into the very pit of hell. Dante had been guided by Beatrice during his terrifying journey, whereas Breivik had his Google.

Breivik identified Cultural Marxism as the cause of all his failures. Cultural Marxism was this metaphysical force that was destroying not only the society in which Breivik lived, but also engulfing his inner life in turmoil. Breiviks's discoveries make it amply clear to us that the thought-patterns of the savage and the modern man are fundamentally the same. In primitive cultures we encounter demonic forces destroying anything that stands in their way and laying possession to the bodies of men. Cultural Marxism is endowed with similar powers: it causes havoc in society by fostering multiculturalism and it engenders feelings of guilt in the hearts of those who are critical of these developments.

What has preceded may come across as something of caricature, but this is not at all the case. It should be kept in mind here that even the most intricate philosophical systems admit of being encapsulated in the most rudimentary formulae, and in regard to the subject matter on hand it must be pointed out that we are not dealing with a school of thought, but rather the musings of some inept individuals, most of whom are Americans, about certain imaginary ideological trends that are viewed as being harmful to society.

The crusade against Cultural Marxism is a sham primarily because the crusaders are tilting at windmills. Furthermore, they do in no way possess the requisite qualifications to tackle the problems they set before themselves. These critics are reminiscent of the antisemite who claims to be an expert on the Talmud without knowing a word of Hebrew; they speak with great authority, almost ex cathedra, about Cultural Marxism, all the while giving no evidence of having engaged themselves with the writings of Marx. And if they had studied the works of Karl Marx, they would have come to realise that Cultural Marxism is anything but Marxist. One could even go so far as to state that those traits identified as being essential to Cultural Marxism - the advocacy of multiculturalism through immigration, feminism, and anti-authoritarianism - carry no relevance whatsoever to the writings of Marx. Neither did the implementation of Marxism in the former Soviet Union entail the pursuit of policies which may be viewed as instances of Cultural Marxism: the advocacy of a monolitihic Soviet culture, the celebration of manly virtues à la Stakhanov the working class hero, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union being a vanguard organisation acting in the best interest of the working class, viz., the whole population. What sort of Marxism is it that contradicts Marx both in theory and in practice? What we are up against is nothing more than an instance of intellectual laziness. Cultural Marxism is a cognitive dustbin in which one may dispose of any social trends considered to be undesirable.

The charge of Cultural Marxism is actually a Cold War survival and should be assigned to the same category as the Red Scare tactics of the American Right against International Communism. The whipping up of irrational fear in regard to communism - culminating in McCarthyism and the attendant show-trials - is a prime example of a society driven mad by a hysteria resembling the witch-hunts of the Late Middle Ages. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the bugbear of the Red Scare became obsolete and an up-to-date incarnation of evil needed to be manufactured: enter Cultural Marxism.

There is too much immigration and you don't like it? The Cultural Marxists are behind it. The feminists are exercising too much influence? The Cultural Marxists are to blame. Your manhood is threatened? The Cultural Marxists are out to castrate you. Is your disapproval of the social developments conjoined with pangs of conscience? The cultural Marxists are manipulating your feelings. You are losing the debate? The cultural Marxists are disprupting your train of thought by means of hidden messages. This cosmic conspiracy turned Breivik into a homicidal lunatic, but this was merely one case of pathology amongst countless others. We are dealing with the kind of men who will not heed the voice of reason, because, as Nietzsche fittingly pointed out, "what the mob has learnt without reason, no reason can overturn."

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What is Political Correctness?

Political correctness is a compound term that gets thrown around a lot nowadays, usually by those opposed to a discourse which avoids addressing socio-political issues deemed to be of a pressing nature. To call someone "politically correct" is to accuse him or her of timidity in regard to problems that must be faced head-on.

The accusation of political correctness is a disease that all democratic societies must come to terms with. The substratum of most societies is a mass of individuals whose manners are uncouth, who have little or no education, whose analytical skills are inadequate, and who often carry grievances. Sadly, the principle of universal suffrage grants these animal-like creatures the right to vote and their grievances give rise to populist politicians. These populist politicians speak the crude language of the embittered masses and a symbiotic relationship between a populist agitator and the crowd comes into being, threatening the very foundations of democracy.

The accusations of political correctness will always emanate from those who identify themselves with the majority of a society. They will decry what they view as special privileges granted to minorities, and they will want an open debate on this politics of appeasement.

We must ask ourselves why special privileges are granted to minorities in the first place. As we reflect on this matter, we must keep in mind that the political vision of the ignorant masses extends to the coming weekend, whereas the political vision of a true statesman - men such as Bismarck, Atatürk, and Putin - is solicitous of the centuries that are to follow.

Uneducated Europeans tend to pout about the privileges afforded to the immigrants, but these privileges are but trifles in comparison with the privileges granted by China to her minorities. The Chinese one child policy does not apply to the Uyghur Muslims, who are allowed to have two children. Time is allotted to the Uyghurs for the observance of their prayers while they are at work. The Uyghurs are paid higher wages than the Han Chinese in Xinjiang owing to the fact that mutton is more expensive than pork. The Chinese Communist Party does not grant these privileges to the Uyghurs because they are philo-Islamic; these measures serve the purpose of bringing about the cohesion of the state.

Russia, likewise, grants many privileges to its minorities. In the case of country as vast as Russia, the granting of privileges to the minorities is an absolute necessity. Russia does not have the infrastructure - nor is it economically feasible - to rigorously police every corner of the country. The loyalty of the minorities living on the Russian periphery must be won by showing them that the state cares for their well-being.

If China and Russia allowed these policies to become subject to public debate, there would surely be many a fool, whose political vision does not extend any farther than to the coming weekend, who would object to this preferential treatment of the minorities. Precisely for this reason China and Russia should never allow these policies to become subject to open debate.

Also in the West, there are preferential policies aimed at the minorities. It is legitimate to point out the flaws to these policies, but one should be wary of conflating the reasoned critique of these policies with the criticism of those at whom these policies are aimed.

The rejection of political correctness is rooted in the desire to give vent to one's primal rage; we are dealing with hooliganism plain and simple. Political correctness is the adherence to a civilised discourse, whereas its opponents reject it in the name of free speech. But free speech, it must be remembered, is not an end in itself; free speech is a means to an end, and like any means it must be utilised in a responsible fashion. The uncultured advocates of free speech assume the role of victims when they are rebuked for making irresponsible utterances. They claim that their democratic rights have been trampled on, but the fact of the matter is that the exercise of prudence in regard to one's speech is part and parcel of the human condition. Indeed, this art of discernment in speech is what distinguishes man from the beast. And those who master this art have found ways of getting around the censors in societies exercising the severest kind of thought-control.

There was a famous Russian saint who would always keep a tiny rock in his mouth with a view to restraining his speech. People would do well to follow this saint's example. Far more important than the freedom of speech is the ability to keep one's mouth shut.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Elementary Politics: Right versus Left, or God versus Satan

The historically-minded amongst us are likely to point to the French Revolution of 1789 in order to explain the origins of the left-right distinction in politics: in the post-1789 French national assemby, the supporters of the Ancien Régime were seated to the president's right, whereas the supporters of the Revolution were seated to his left.

The left-right distinction in politics is actually primordial in origin; it stems from those pre-historic times when the metaphysical categories of good and evil had a bearing on the everyday life of men and women. The first leftist was Satan. The ultimate sin of Satan was not unspeakable cruelty; what brought about his fall from grace was his act of disobedience. Satan challenged the established order, he questioned the wisdom of God's decrees, and for this act of bravery he was cast out of heaven. The most moving and human account of Satan's disobedience is to be found in the holy book of the Muslims. After God had created man, he asked all the angels and jinns to prostrate themselves before his new creation. Everyone did as God commanded, with the exception of Satan. When God asked Satan why he was not prostrating himself, Satan replied, "Why should I prostrate myself unto a mortal whom thou hast created out of potter's clay of black mud altered?" It is almost as if Satan was anticipating all the follies of man and the countless miseries this creature of God would wreak upon earth.

Satan challenged God's way of ordering the universe, and as prone as the human mind, both the primitive and the modern, is to interpreting the world with recourse to binary opposites, Satan came to signify cosmic chaos. The binary pair of order versus chaos is perhaps the most fundamental. Every man, from the wisest to the dumbest, wants the world to make sense; he has a way of ordering the world around him, and whatever contradicts this order is seen as signifying chaos. But Satan, it should be remembered, was no instigator of chaos; he had his own way of ordering the world.

Chaos may well be a deplorable state of affairs, but the catalogue of perversities attributed to Satan is the invention of the religious authorities. When Catherine of Siena, this deranged woman, now counted amongst the saints of the Roman-Catholic Church, was having her visions of human beings engaging in the vilest acts of debauchery, she attributed these visions to the machinations of Satan. It never occured to Catherine of Siena that her own frail and impressionable mind might be the cause of her hallucinations. For lengthy periods of time, Catherine of Siena's only source of nutrition would be the Holy Communion and with a view to curbing her inordinate desires she would engage in acts of self-flagellation. No wonder that this repressed and anorectic lady was susceptible to hallucinations, no wonder that she saw Satan behind every corner, and no wonder that she championed the the cause of the Roman-Catholic crusades against the Muslims, the Jews, and the Orthodox Christians.

A binary thinking from which moral precepts are deduced is a disease not only of the Western mind; it is an intellectual disease to be encountered in every part of the world in which the three semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have taken root. Christianity and Islam, it should be remembered, have inherited their basic theological concepts from Judaism, whereas Judaism, for its part, has inherited these selfsame theological concepts from the Persian religion of Zoroaster. The historical root cause of this intellectual disease being the religion of Zoroaster was identified as such by Nietzsche. In Nietzsche's famous work Also Sprach Zarathustra, the founder of this religion returns to the world of mortals in order to atone for his folly. Zoroaster was the one who had infected the human mind with the concepts of good and evil; therefore it was only fitting that he should return to recant his teaching. And this he did by declaring death of God. What Nietzsche had accomplished was no more than an act of poetic justice, but Nietzsche's endeavours to uncover the causes of all our intellectual diseases should be lauded on a par with the most revolutionary discoveries in the fields of the natural sciences.

My studies of Nietzsche have enabled me to identify the following genealogies of the political traditions of Right and Left:

Right: This political tradition is sacerdotal by nature and may therefore, mythologically speaking, be seen as hailing from God himself. This is a common sense tradition, which, by observing the iron laws of nature, where the stronger forces prevail over the weaker, seeks to imitate these laws in the ordering of the human relations. This political tradition is crude, it is tribalistic, it is fatalistic, and most important of all: it is practical; after all: what works for the beast in the jungle, works just as well for men. Free market economy, imperialism, eugenics, racial segregation, and slavery are but the laws of the jungle being applied to the human condition. The crudest representatives of this tradition justify this way of ordering things as being in conformity with the laws of nature which have been instituted by the God Almigthy himself; to question the customary way of ordering the world amounts to defying God. Even the sophisticated representatives of this political tradition, Edmund Burke being a case in point, seek refuge in a mystical world of custom. The finest representative of this political tradition, the German jurist Carl Schmitt, a man whom I truly admire, makes no secret of the fact that politics is ultimately a secularised form of theology. Schmitt's distinction of friend and foe in politics is in fact a translation into modern political idiom of the ancient theological concepts of good and evil. "Après moi, le déluge" was much more than the lamentation of a French king who knew that his end was nigh. This lamentation bespeaks an apocalpytic way of perceiving the world: if the prevalent order is disrupted by its enemies, the gates of hell will burst open. The political tradition of the Right cannot do without enemies, both internal and external. Yesterday one had a fifth column of Jews in cahoots with international communism, whereas today one has a fifth column of Muslim immigrants-cum-terrorists in cahoots with the cultural Marxists. This is theology at work.

Left: This political tradition is counter-sacerdotal by nature and may therefore, mythologically speaking, be seen as hailing from Satan himself. This tradition is not without its ancient-historical
prototypes, but in its modern form it is initiated by Kant and it reaches its pinnacle in the philosophy of Karl Marx. Kant's highest achievement was his having demonstrated - and decidedly so - that the traditional modes of ordering the world are woefully inadequate. With great clarity Kant showed how tribalist prejudices marr human thinking. In his exposition of the antinomies he explained how two diametrically opposed propositions regarding the origin of the world could both be equally right. If both be equally right, then what is it that prompts man to dogmatically adhere to proposition A rather than B or B rather than A? Kant's answer is that an inherent provincialism prompts man to act in such a manner. "It is a manifestly absurd thing", says Kant, "to expect to be enlightened by reason and yet to prescribe for it beforehand on which side it should incline." Marx's philosophy is a continuation of the process set in motion by Kant. Kant laid bare the provincialism of human thought, whereas Marx showed how it affected the economic and social relations existing between men. Marx made it clear that the superstructure of a society, its ideals and its myths, served to consolidate the hegemony of the ruling classes.

The Western inclination to viewing the world along theological-dualistic lines is far from being universal. In this regard we have a great deal to learn from the ancient Hindus. The Hindu Goddess Kali encompasses both good and evil, thus rendering Satan superfluous. Hinduism also makes the distinction between right and left; the former signifies religious orthodoxy, whereas the latter signifies religious heterodoxy. The important point is that Hinduism acknowledges the validity of the left path or heterodoxy as a viable means to deliverance. The ancient Hindus displayed a level of theological-philosophical sophistication which was not reached by the West until the times of Kant.

The persistence of the political tradition of the Right goes to show that habits of old cannot be done away with. There is a direct line of continuity between the primitive caveman and the modern conservative. According to Schopenhauer, insanity is a rupture to the narrative chain conferring meaning on the world. The political Right's battle against the Left is not only a struggle for the preservation of a quasi-theological narrative; it is also a struggle for the preservation of one's sanity.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bose: Between Hitler and Gandhi

Of all the modern anti-imperialist movements, the Indian Independence Movement is the most risible. The Indians did not fight for their independence like men; they resorted to the most effeminate strategy available: non-violence.

The Indian Independence Movement was held in contempt - and rightly so - by the Russians, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese. To Stalin, all Indians were potential British agents, Chairman Mao used to crack jokes at the expense of Gandhi and Nehru, and Ho Chi Minh would shake his head in disdain at the leadership of the Indian Congress Party.

India was the the richest amongst the British colonies; and also the most docile. The leading Indian parties were co-founded by the British: the Indian Home Rule Movement by Annie Besant and the Indian National Congress by Octavian Hume, both of whom were British agents.

The British were pulling all the strings in regard to the Indian opposition; this political theatre provided the Indians with the illusion of fighting against the Empire all the while Indian soldiers were accomplices to British colonial projects all over the world.

The ultimate political masterstroke of the British was the repatriation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from South Africa to his native India in 1915. No man did greater harm to the Indian Independence Movement than this timid and unprincipled barrister. By insisting on a non-violent struggle, he rendered the Indian fighters for independence less intimidating to the British rulers than the coconut-wielding Bushmen of Africa. Furthermore, Gandhi introduced Hinduism into politics, thus alienating India's Muslims and delivering the decisive impetus to the movement for a separate Muslim homeland. The Britons were rubbing their hands in glee at the antics of their Indian asset dressed up as a Kuli.

The Gandhi we encounter in the history books is a creation of the media; the British loved him because he was harmless to their political aims and the ignorant Americans loved him because they thought he was a saint. The man was a veritable celebrity; a fighter for independence he was not. His figure was hypostasised during his own lifetime, and the point was reached where no Indian stood the chance of leading the movement for India's independence without Gandhi's approval. Nehru remained Gandhi's loyal dog, but as soon as Nehru had become India's Prime Minister, he spat Gandhi out of Indian politics. When Nehru declared India's independence in the Indian parliament, Gandhi was absent. The true nature of Gandhi had finally come to the fore: that of a political non-entity.

One Indian leader refused to be Gandhi's loyal dog. The name of this great man was Subhas Chandra Bose. He rejected Gandhi's strategy of non-violence and went for the British Empire's jugular, thus evoking the ire of both Gandhi and the British.

Bose's intellectual prowess and political astuteness forced Hitler to revise his condescending views about the Indians, the Japanese considered him a latter day heir to their Samurais, and Stalin was left utterly confounded because he could not get himself to believe that an Indian would be willing to fight tooth and nail for his country's independence.

There is a pantheon of great European and Asian anti-imperialists: Lenin, Stalin, Attatürk, Mao, Kim Il-Sung, and Ho Chi Minh. Bose deserves the be the ranked among these all-time-greats who fought against Anglo-French-American imperialism.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Russia & The Arabs

Review: Russia and the Arabs by Yevgeni Primakov

The Britons had their gunboat diplomacy and the Yanks do their cowboy diplomacy, whereas the Russians employ tact in their dealings with the Arabs. Of course, given its proximity to the region it is in Russia’s interest to maintain healthy relations with the nations of the Middle East.

Primakov reveals a deep understanding of the culture and history of the Arabs and offers us many valuable insights as to why this region is engulfed in turmoil. The Soviet Union was always sympathetic to nationalist and progressive regimes in the Arab world and steered clear of any political movements with religious leanings. America, on the other hand, did the exact opposite: “As far back as the 1950s, the United States decided that its main pillars of support in the Arab world were those who not only stood up for Muslim values but were willing to resort to terrorist methods to do so” (p. 91). No less revealing is the fact that the CIA were accomplices to terrorist activities carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood.

What Primakov wants us to see is that Islamism and its attendant terrorism are the products of American machinations in the Middle East. Even more tellingly, he traces the roots of Middle East terrorism to the pioneers of Israel: namely the terrorist group Lehi, the ranks of which included the future prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, and the terrorist group Etzel, whose leader, Menachem Begin, also went on to become the prime minister of the state of Israel.

Behind the diplomat’s facade one can sense no small amount of glee, as Primakov offers us his reflections on the quagmire in which the Yanks find themselves in Iraq (y. 2006). And he reminds us of the following: “Freedom fighters and terrorists are not the same thing; there can be no justification for conflating the two” (p. 366). Thus he condones the battle of the Iraqi Resistance against the American imperialists. This book is sure to be unpalatable to the average American, but as far as the civilised world is concerned, Primakov is merely speaking common sense.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Inside Brzezinki's Mind

A Review of The Grand Chessboard

The perverse worldview of Zbigniew Brzezinski is what this book has to offer us. The Brzezinskis are Polish aristocrats, and Zbigniew is undoubtedly their ablest living heir. Brzezinski combines the reactionary sophistication of a Joseph de Maistre with the crude slyness of a pickpocket. Plato extolled the philosopher-king, whereas our Polish pickpocket-philosopher would be more likely to please the sensibilities of a Machiavelli.

That a crook like Brzezinski aims to shape the foreign policy of the world's most crooked nation should come as no surprise; like attracts like, and as Cicero fittingly pointed out, "nature loves nothing so much as that which resembles it."

Brzezinski's finest hour probably came during the late seventies of the previous century, when he travelled to Peshawar in Pakistan for a fateful rendezvous with the Afghan warlords who had fled from the communist regime in Kabul. The Afghan communists had sought to instil some Enlightenment values into their woefully backward countrymen, but what visionaries such as N.M. Tariki, H. Amin, and B. Karmal failed to see is that it takes a great deal more than the waving of red banners to the chants of "liberté, egalité, fraternité" if you wish to convince a Wahabi of the value of the ideals propounded by a Rousseau or a Voltaire, let alone by a Karl Marx. And hell broke loose when Afghan communists granted equal rights to women. For the patriarchal Afghans this was casus belli justifying Jihad against the infidel regime in Kabul.

Brzezinski's geopolitical calculations made him see that the communist regime in Kabul would beg the Soviet Union to intervene in the event of a civil war. And this is precisely how things turned out; fire and brimstone upon the Soviets.

In the homily which Brzezinski delivered to the Afghan cavemen, he spoke of hope and redemption. He reminded the Afghan cavemen, the precursors to the Taliban, that God was on their side and that the Almighty would deliver them from the scourge of communism. It was a shameless display, yet a geostrategic masterstroke.

The Soviet Union is no more, but from the ashes of the dead communist empire Putin's Russia is risen. The book on hand should be seen as a theoretical preparation for our Polish pickpocket-philosopher's next crusade against the Soviet Union's heir: Putin's Russia. That which is implicit in this book is far more important than that which is explicit. Admittedly, Brzezinski is frank enough about the end: the maintenance of American hegemony. But he is wisely convoluted as to the means by which the end is to be attained.

The key chapter of the book in this regard is "the Eurasian Balkans". Brzezinski is a formidable geostrategist, in comparison with whom the neoconservative would-be-empire-builders come across as downright amateurs.

Brzezinski once pointed out that the Islamists are unlikely to come swimming across the Atlantic in order to attack the United States, and he is right. In virtue of being a cold-blooded political realist, Brzezinski knows full well that Islamism will never pose a tangible threat to the United States. As far as America is concerned, Islamism is nothing more than a bogeyman, an imaginary affliction, with which to frighten a notoriously simple-minded American population into submission so as to make it relinquish its own civil liberties. For Russia, on the other hand, Islamism is a lethal threat right at its doorsteps. This is a fact of which Brzezinski is fully aware, who envisages the following scenario for the Central-Asian Balkans: the delicate demographic composition of the Central-Asian republics coupled with a resurgent Islam gone mad will set the whole region in flames. "Indeed, the process of Islamization is likely to prove contagious also to the Muslims who have remained within Russia proper" (p. 133). One may well view this as the utterance of a detached observer, but one would be foolish to view it in such a light. The Americans are likely to leave no stone unturned in their endeavours to channel the rage of the Islamists into Russia. The Islamists may be fuming against America for now, but in the long run they may once again prove to be an invaluable American asset. One can only hope that this book is being carefully studied in both Moscow and Beijing.