Sunday 24 May 2009

Liberated zone

Starting to read John Howard Yoder's Politics of Jesus already on the first page in the first note I am referred to books and authors I have not heard of, such as John Pairman Brown with The liberated zone, dated 1969.
Apparently there has been a tendency towards what is generally called liberation theology in the Anglophone world, earlier than might have been thought.
A review of this book from 1970 - you can enlarge the text to read it by clicking on it.

Friday 22 May 2009

London Anarchist Conference Meet-up

There will be a meet up for Christians interested in dialogue at the London Anarchist Conference at Mile End. The conference is Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th June. The meet-up is on Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Orange Room on Burdett Road for a Lebanese meal, just to catch up and share ideas and thoughts.

If you want to join us just turn up but it would be easier if you email me so I can book a table for the right numbers (it's a small cafe).

The Cafe is easy to find:

By Tube: Come out of Mile End Station (Central Line) turn left onto pavement, left at the busy junction onto Burdett Road. The park is on your right; The Orange Room is further down on your left.

By Bus: Take the Number 25 ariculated bus to Mile End Station and follow above instructions.

By Car: Ha! Good luck!!!

By Cycle: The Canal Network will spill you out at Mile End Park part of which runs parallel with Burdett Road.


Tuesday 19 May 2009

Is this what Christianity looks like?

Updating note at bottom

For a short time which I very intensively lived through I was a reporter for a newssite on religion and globalisation.
Yes, I know what some readers will think or say when I tell it was funded by a state loan. The state demanded the money back after two months, which no normal lender would have done.
That effectively was the end of any professional own reporting for the site, any chances of developing into something independent and it was the end of my journey through Organised-Religionland - which I had found very interesting.

The other day I had to look back on a piece I wrote in that short period not too long ago. A story which without my being a reporter would have gone unnoticed for me.
It was about a television programme aired by the evangelicals - who have their own licensed broadcasting company on public radio and televison in NL - can you manage to live for forty days without s**? A drooping and drooling presenter showed a girl who - we were told - was very easy to get and would not say no to whatever occasion was offered to her - but she wanted to let us know she was not the s*** people said she was.

When I look back at it my sadness about it - and a certain personal sense of utter dullness - comes back with a vengeance. I know we are not supposed to follow the multitude.
Yet, for the multitude this is the face of living christianity today.
About being or not being a s***. Questions about Jesus which I - who happen not to accept the Chalcedon decree about the divinity of Jesus - find of a despicably profane nature. Rather inconsistently I have to refer to one place where you can see what I mean.

It would have been healthier not to have seen it all.
There is not much difference with the story about anarchism - whatever clever things you might say about it, one of the usual idiots on the telly will blow it away within one second. With Christianity, the situation in the final analysis is not different.
It is all about being anti-sexual, bashing of gays and scorn of women, and you are not even supposed to throw back those stones...

Anyone for a provisional definitive consoling message?

And a few minutes after my having finished this the paper edition of A pinch of salt lands into the mailbox and I have to laugh, just like about the cover of nr. 18. "Look kitten..."
Certainly a consoling message.

Monday 18 May 2009

Car Scrapping: With Capitalism you just can't waste enough!

The Government is following in Germany's footsteps by offering UK subjects the chance to trade in their old car - must be at least 10 years old - and get £2,000 off their new one courtesy of UK Plc.

There is some bullshit going on here. Surprise, surprise.

This is not good for the environment, since cars tend to have a higher carbon footprint in their making than in their life-time of use and the scheme does not insist on consumers buying less damaging cars anyway.

Also, like all good capitalism schemes this one will benefit the richer at the expense of the poorer. Aspiring middle-class folk will get to buy a nicer car than they can otherwise afford and the poor will no longer be able to buy a car because there will be no cheap old cars to buy.

Up yours poor people! Hello Middle-England Vote-bank!

Sunday 17 May 2009

The Cunningham Amendment: Tax Collectors

Paper edition #19 out now

Issue 19 of A Pinch of Salt is available.
If you would like a copy then email Keith Hebden

editor.apos AT

The omelet and the eggs

Collateral damage, friendly fire.
Find a euphemism or an acronym and blood, sweat, tears, pain, urine and cholera-infested excrement disappear like a snowman in the sun.
IDP's - internally displaced persons - I read this abbreviation in articles about the "refugee problem" (that's one we were already used to) in Pakistan. How many IDP's are there at the moment, approximately?

The provincial government estimates between 150,000 to 200,000 people have arrived in safer areas of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) over the last few days, with another 300,000 on the move or about to move.

Those fleeing the latest escalation of hostilities in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat districts join another 555,000 previously displaced Pakistanis who had fled their homes in the tribal areas and NWFP since August 2008 and who had already been registered by NWFP authorities and UNHCR. The vast majority of the earlier arrivals – more than 462,000 people – are staying in rental accommodation or with host families. Another 93,000 are staying in 11 camps supported by UNHCR, other UN humanitarian agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent family.


So we can infer that the IDP-story is about more than a million human beings.
It is all a matter of the omelet and the eggs, probably, for Islamabad and Washington DC. It happens, in the War Against Terror.
This was the Cambodia-moment for Brand Obama, and he passed the test: no protest of any importance in the US of A. He can get away with it. Incredible.

But even if the Swat Valley can be (re-)conquered by the Pakistani regime its problems will not be over.
For further reading.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Quick kill, fast buck

John Pilger reminds us of the role of the UK in Sri Lanka: as massive arms dealer to the racist and repressive government. At the same time the New Labour government asks the Tamil Tiger guerrilla movement to lay down its arms.
You certainly do not have to be willing to defend the Tigers in a moral sense to understand why they will be fighting on desperately. The Sri Lanka regime does not care about human life in general and Tamil human life in particular.
And it now says it will have dealt with the guerrilla within a few hours even .

A quick kill, just like the Old Labour government championed in Nigeria in 1967, against Biafra, the republic which was the result of fears of genocide of the people from the (South-) Eastern part of this colonial manufacture.
Dividing, killing, ruling. And of course: making money out of all three.

From a recent piece in The Guardian:
According to government figures, in the last quarter of last year Whitehall approved arms exports to Sri Lanka worth £1.4m, mainly components for communications equipment. This compares with under £1m-worth of UK arms exports to the country for the whole of 2007. "When the world needs co-operative solutions to global problems, the thriving international arms market points to a squandering of resources which the international community can ill afford," said Paul Holtom, head of Sipri's arms transfer programme.

More articles on the UK arms deliveries to Sri Lanka here and here (dating back to 2001). It is easy to find more.

In the case of Nigeria it was the USSR which also helped the junta with its quick kill (which lasted 2,5 years, incidentally). In Sri Lanka where so-called maoist Sinhalese racists are supporting the government, this fraternal socialist role is fulfilled by the People's Republic of China.

Friday 15 May 2009

Smiling sisters behind bars

Around ten years ago I had an appointment with an Israeli anarchist professor, who was looking for people willing to present a paper on Gustav Landauer. I suggested to offer a parallel history of ideas of Dutch Christian anarchists and Landauer – whose anarchism certainly can be called religious but not Christian. This for the rather simple reason that he was Jewish, and although he presented thoughts of Meister Eckhart’s in modern German he never betrayed his spiritual roots – why indeed should he?

I spent most of that summer studying Landauer and getting to see the connection between Christian anarchism and Landauer’s type of anarchism. It proved rather helpful that I considered and still consider his Aufruf zum Sozialismus (Call to socialism) the best invitation to anarchism I have read – and I have read quite a few. In the final analysis the connection between “my” Dutch Christian anarchists and Landauer was founded on the basis of mysticism – strange as this may sound since many people cannot think of combining “basis” with “mysticism”. The latter word seems to refer to floatings in the air, not with the baking of daily bread for a corner shop (which was a connection I found – and to my amazement the retired Israeli professor told me he now was a baker at a kibbutz...).

So I braved the odds of entering Israel, being questioned in the middle of the night whether this professor might be called to verify my story. I had to spend the night outside in front of the university, watching the sun coming up and getting strength. I did not know what I was waiting for – actually, it was Saturday and it took me quite a lot of apparently forbidden work to even get into the room I had made a reservation for in the university building. And then Monday morning arrived – the moment of my debut as presenter of a paper at a university on the subject I had been studying for some time. Nobody there, except for the Israeli professor. Most participants, it turned out, had cancelled their promise to participate. And those who had not done so did not turn up. After nearly half an hour the professor decided to call it a day: “It happens”. He would try to squeeze me in somewhere so I would not have travelled all this way in vain. I was too stunned to be sad or angry.

Walking through the corridor of the university building I saw a man who was putting a notice on the information board: Extra Seminar on the study of “Mysticism and society”! I had to laugh, the man putting up the notification asked me why. “Because I have to ask you whether I can present my paper at your seminar”. I told him the story, gave him a print of the paper, he had a quick look at it and said that naturally I would fit in. If ever I could have believed in God’s Finger, it was at that moment. A few days later I was presenting the story of Dutch Christian anarchism and its parallels with Landauer to an international audience – and afterwards the moderator, a reverend of the Evangelische Kirche and I were rather stubbornly invited by a Carmelite nun to present our papers to a Carmelite community – at Mt. Carmel itself. I had to improvise it in French, the first European language of Christendom in the Near East. The unforgettable picture of smiling convent sisters behind their bars listening to me telling about the connection between anarchism, mysticism and Christianity... Writing it down I find it hard to believe it myself.

[Written as Pt. 1 of a series: Mysticism - a coming out story.
Only this biter has been bit by his own previous posting which suddenly made him see how much he takes for granted.
The picture is a look at Haifa University from downtown. I would not go there nowadays, a critical theorist working there with whom I stayed in touch called it "a sad part of the world".
Anyway, God willing - to be continued].

Hear the silent cry

"A mystical vein runs through our movement," Dutch Christian anarchist reverend Louis A. Bähler wrote around a century ago - about Christian anarchism. Crossing the edges of logic I might say to this: this is both true and untrue. The English title of Dorothee Sölle's book on mysticism and action expresses this logical non sequitur better still: The silent cry (Du stilles Geschrei - the original German subtitle, again, is ambivalent, meaning either "You silent cry" or "Hark the silent cry").

So you have not stopped reading already, impatiently shrugging? Chances are the word "mysticism" invokes for readers with a Christian background the burning of fragrant sticks, humming Om endlessly and all the other kinds of kitsch white Westerners like to shop for in areas which will really remain closed to them - the world Gita Mehta already summed up in her book title Karma cola.

Mysticism has been declared a closed area by many Christian theologians, starting from Tertullian right down to Karl Barth. On the other hand, a theologian as Karl Rahner thought that there would be no future for the Church if it did not turn (back) to mysticism. And Peter Maurin - another Christian anarchist - stresses that the workers are naturally mystical - and theirs is the future anyway.

The shortest description (I hesitate about using the word "definition" for reasons I will not get into now) of mysticism I know is given by Dutch priest André Zegveld:
Mysticism is the knowledge of God, based on experience.

This sounds rather rational. Is not there a feeling attached to it? Another compatriot of mine bursts out lyrically:

To understand the nature of mysticism you have to go back to your childhood and remember what it was like when you first fell in love. Can you remember the days at school when this undefinable thrill for the first time got hold of you? There you were, all of a sudden you had fallen in love with a girl that was in your eyes the favourite of the gods. She was so touched by divine grace that the picture of her could not leave your mind for a second. How smooth her skin and how beautiful her hair! What a gorgeous face! How delicate the rounding of her forearms! Her beautiful girlish hands, with the tender and fragile fingers, kept coming back to your mind all day. And if this mental picture, which you had chained to your soul with all the Gordian knots in the world, left your memory and the image of her went blank, then you felt a great loss, a tremendous pain of being bereft by something so precious that you would give up everything you owned to get it back. You remembered everything she said, what she did, the way she walked, the charm of her conversation. Especially on moments when you were alone this feeling was cherished. You wanted to be by yourself with this feeling and you locked yourself up in your room to think about her. It made your favourite music sound like it was played on Mount Parnassos by Apollo himself.

No, my friend - this is more or less how it felt the second time I fell in love, and certainly not exactly that way.
The first time was - now that I write it down it comes with some fear and trembling - meeting a girl whose name was the name she should have had, the immediate recogniton - "It is you", her answer: "Yes, and it is you" and the feeling of both certainty and confusion at the same time. What next?
Next was - she was married within weeks. With the father of the child she already was expecting.
She had to. Working towards a certain mystical experience. Bye bye.
(I have written a stage play about it, the rehearsals of which I called a halt to - still, writing a play is very different from condensing it to one paragraph.) [*) please see first note below]

Sorry for this interruption - anyway, the general feeling probably is expressed in the right way in the exalted story about this girl and her forearms (not a body part I particularly associate with roundings) - you might understand it even when you are a "straight" woman, a gay man or a lesbian - at least, I hope you recognize it since I do more or less. The anonymous writer on the site - as does Dorothee Sölle - stresses everybody has had mystical experiences in their life.

Frankly, I have no idea about the difference between metapsychic experience - such as my first encounter with love - and mysticism.
My intuition (ah! something else in this field) tells me the boundaries are uncertain. A very prominent anti-mystical theologian tells he was so frightened about a mystical experience that he got on the run for it - and apparently succeeded in shaking it off. I will not mention names but he has written on Anarchie et christianisme. It turned him into a religious man but an anti-mysticist too. More on that later.

And again, there is a contradiction. Can mysticism be studied rationally? Yes, it can be done, but you should have experience with mysticism yourself to study it. But haven't we all, then?

*) When I wrote the stage play the tragic aspect of it all was what had struck me most - as if meeting someone you have been waiting for and whose name you have known in advance and the mutual recognition - as if that would have been perfectly normal.
And maybe it is. At a younger age I probably took it for granted.
And yet it is frighteningly inexplicable - as yet. Since it is by its nature a one-time experience it is not open to experimental research. More on the ordinary of the miraculous and the miracle of the ordinary here as far as I am concerned.

[For the print edition of A pinch of salt I thought of starting a series on Adventures in Mysticism, but the article was shelved or replaced for something different - though on mysticism too. This might be the start of the online version of the series, this however is not what you might have seen on paper - that will be next...]

Thursday 14 May 2009

Your all-day mental disorder

His holiness Pope Benedict was a member of the Hitlerjugend, as anyone of a certain age in Germany was. He was also enlisted in the armed forces, as any male was at his age in his lifetime.
I am not a Catholic, so I am not obliged to say it let alone think it but I will go along with the idea that it is the Holy Spirit Who decides who will be pope. There is a time to be Protestant and there is a time to let go of this protestantism and respect the position of the larger part of the one holy catholic Church.
Benedict is not my pope, he is the pope - heads of the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy will always be mentioned as being pope of...

Visiting what is generally referred to as the Holy Land - a way to avoid difficult referring names as Israel, Palestine, and what most Israeli Jews call The Territories which for any decent person should be a scandal - he will be consistently reminded of his nationality.

It could have been expected that the pope would be blackmailed about his German background and what this means at his age. And he is. He will never be able to say it right. Neither will any successor, for that matter, of whatever nationality (s)he may be.

Without further ado let us search for the apologies about making profits by producing the gas for the gas chambers from these companies:

Hoechst Israel.
BASF Israel.
Bayer Israel.

I could not see them at first glance but maybe if you have a good look you will find apologies for the murder (not: killing) and profit making by murder (not: killing) and slave labour.

Capitalism is the worst mental disorder ever to visit humankind, and we are surrounded by this disorder all day and all night and we should accept it as a perfectly normal and decent condition.

I am lost for words actually because I really was so naive to think these companies were not allowed to be based in Israel.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

A pilgrimage worth considering

Would it be useful to show any disappointment about the pope who will not be visiting Gaza? The polite answer, of course, will be: the Israeli junta will not guarantee the safety of the head of the Church of Rome in finibus Filistinorum, since it will guarantee no-one's personal safety in this area.
And so rather unsurprisingly the possibility to meet certain Christians of the land where Christianity was born will pass. Unsurprisingly, but still disappointing for the Christians concerned, and - without doubt - for the muslims too.

But there will be chances to have your own special pilgimage without taking risks no-one should run. Be on the lookout for olive harvesting.
And then there is the peace initiative of Father Elias Chacour, which organises its own pilgrimage in the autumn. I was there and I can only say: seeing for yourself, being there is - let me think about words because I do not want to sound like a tourist brochure.
More on "being there" soon.

Monday 11 May 2009

Sedition, subversion, and anarchy: the church's emerging political mission

Hugh Price Hughes Lectures 2009 “Refreshing Church”

Tuesday at 7.30pm and free.

May 12th
Jonathan Bartley
“Sedition, subversion and anarchy: the church's emerging political mission”

The Revolution isn't over in Nepal

There's no such thing as a complete revolution, a utopian end-point, as the Nepalese people are demonstrating at the moment (Links 10 May 2009)

After years of struggle; national strikes, Maoist and military imposed curfews, the bloodiest asassination of royals since the end of the Russian Tsars, and riots on the streets of Khatmandu, the Nepalese people finally overthrew the Royalists (2006) and last year and the communists stormed to power in a new federalist system.

Almost exactly a year later and the prime minister and some other goverment minister's are resigning in what Link and blogger Ben Peterson are calling a "soft coup" that suggests that Maoist and popular reform in favour of greater social justice are still being frustrated by monarchist military elites.

Video from Kathmandu

From Link:

"The UCPN (M) [Maoist party) has called for protests in the streets until its demands have been met. "The protests have been many and all over the place”, Peterson said. “They are organised by a whole range of different groups. Every different group has its own protest. The mood is angry.”

The protests ranged from involving hundreds, to tens of thousands, he said. However, he emphasised that these protests occurred simultaneously — there could be dozens of protests in Kathmandu at any one time. “Many of the people I have spoken to at the protests were not Maoists”, Peterson said.

As example of the mood, he explained: “The other night I was at the bus park, and about 20 people just waiting around for a bus spontaneously started chanting against the president.”

The foreign media have attempted to play up protests by right-wing NC supporters. The Sydney Morning Herald even featured a photo of an NC supporters protest with the caption “People’s Power”. Peterson said that before the UCPN (M) left government, there were some tiny protests involving a few hundred people at most. Since then, no such protests had occurred.

In some cases the police have attacked protesters, including tear gassing a demonstration by the pro-UCPN (M) Young Communist League. Police repeatedly attack attempts by protesters, mostly Maoist women, to demonstrate in front of the president’s offices. Protests in that are have been banned, resulting in regular clashes.

However, the state has held off from trying full-scale repression.

So far, the UCPN (M) has also held back from full-scale mobilisations. It has yet to organise a centralised, all-out demonstration that calls the greatest numbers onto the streets together. However, as the likely futile negotiations by the anti-Maoist parties drags on, that could be about to change."

Monday 4 May 2009

Being ready to murder as a way of life

The attack at the Dutch royal family of April 30th - which took the lives of seven people, the perpetrator including, and several wounded who will be scarred for life - keeps intriguing. Now here is someone who was fired, who would be evicted because he was unable to pay the rent and as a divorced father was deprived of the right to see his children.

Yes, there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of people like him, if not millions. Luckily, hardly any of them decides to do an Attentat.

But even though poverty may have loomed for the late attacker, he still had a car, the best legal means to kill or hurt. It was a Suzuki.
I am not sure whether CNN mentioned the brand in its news item about the attack. But click on the illustration and find out what CNN has to say about Suzuki.

CNN is not broadcasting for the news ONLY ON CNN.
CNN is there for the advertisements.

And any advertisement for a brand of car is an advertisement for cars in general, as Erich Fromm has written. It projects a society in which it is perfectly normal and desirable to own your own four wheeled means of transport (which has to be bought on credit of course - oops, something going wrong with this these days).
And "creating" seven dead and several more wounded is a way of life.

Libertarian marxist André Gorz already summed up the case against cars in 1973.
Come to think of it, Dutch Christian anarchist Felix Ortt already wrote half a century before Gorz that it was a wasteful means of consuming energy - when you convert the costs you end up in proceeding at a speed of 5 km/h - the speed of a walking person - and you use quite a lot of irreplaceable resources for this result.

h/t Lapis Lazuli.

Sunday 3 May 2009

Well, I've never been to Glasgow...

...but I've been to the site.
Glasgow, the city of Alasdair Gray, of our friend wee beautiful pict and of Alastair McIntosh, on whose enchanted-garden-like site I got lost today by way of Sunday service (it even inspired me to write a poem).

Somewhere in that garden is a complete text of Dom Hélder Câmara's Spiral of violence, as a pdf.

So I am just referring you there wondering what you think of it after wandering around there and wondering...

Saturday 2 May 2009

New heaven, new earth: anarchism and Christianity beyond empire

A conference on August 14 & 15, 2009

Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s 2009 anarchism and Christianity conference in the US aims to be a time to think about the possibilities for the world to come. The speakers and the workshops will not only provide a much needed reality check regarding the financial and ecological crises we face, but also point to signs of faithfulness and hope. We want to see the current challenges as an opportunity for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a sane way of life.

The questions we face at this pivotal time of global turmoil is not if our human empires will fall apart, but when they will fall and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation.

Jeannie Alexander, Amos House Catholic Worker (Nashville)
Eric Anglada, New Hope Catholic Worker Farm (Iowa)
Brenna Cussen, Saints Francis & Therese Catholic Worker (Massachusetts)
Ethan Hughes, The Possibility Alliance (Missouri)
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, co-founder Pax Christi-USA; nonviolence advocate
Ewuare X. Osayande, award-winning author; political activist
John Zerzan, leading anti-civilization philosopher; anarcho-primitivist

For more information, including mp3s of previous conference
sessions click here

Friday 1 May 2009

Pack up your daily catastrophe

The perpetrator - the suspected perpetrator I should say - of the bloodbath at the Dutch royal parade in Apeldoorn has died, being the sixth victim of his attack. So we will not get a statement about his intentions.

What we know is that he was a security guard - not the type of work that breeds revolutionaries - it is the ultimate kind of the simulation of work. He had received notice that he was being fired, furthermore he would be dispossessed of his house and he was a divorced father being deprived of the right to see his children.

Sounds hauntingly familiar.

But it was not a terror attack. And we will never know the grudges he had against the ruling order which made him do his evil deed.

And a simple truth which will never be stressed in this or any other case: anyone with a car is a potential mass murderer.

It is a strange world that we live in.