Wednesday, 25 February 2009

My favourite bit of news this week thus far: Senior citizen becomes Britain's oldest squatter.

It will be good to watch this story develop and perhaps find ways to support her. I will try and find a way to contact her.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Faith can face challenge of freedom, says thinktank

No need for fearful rhetoric about 'persecution', Convention event will propose

London, UK - February 24, 2009 Rather than resorting to fearful rhetoric about 'marginalisation' or 'persecution', Christians and people of faith in Britain have a real opportunity to contribute to the public good and to defend the civic freedoms upon which we all rely, says the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia.

Commenting ahead of the high profile Convention on Modern Liberty, at the Institute of Education in London and across the UK on Saturday 28 February 2009, Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow said that the event "embodies the new kind of people-driven politics that can emerge as traditional political institutions waver under growing worldwide pressures, and as they are tempted to resort to authoritarian measures."

"Similar challenges face organisations based around religion and belief," he added. "Fundamental human rights have been supported from many religious quarters, but they have also been challenged or seen as a threat in others."

"There is a choice to be made," said Barrow. "Will faith groups turn in upon themselves, resort to aggressive popularism and shy away from sharing free public space with others? Or can they develop global understandings of citizenship and shared responsibility, rooted in their own specific traditions, which open doors and expose abuses of power?"

Ekklesia argues that a positive way forward is possible.

"We now live in a mixed belief society, rather than one dominated by institutional Christianity," says Simon Barrow. "That may question certain privileges which have existed before, but the removal of these need not be a threat. Rather it is an opportunity to rediscover a more authentic, liberating message and practice; one that has often been obscured or defaced by the collusion of official religion and governing authority."

What is vital, suggests Ekklesia, is that people of all faiths and none find a common agenda around defending the civil liberties that enable shared action and conversation in society.

"That is the opportunity the Convention on Modern Liberty demonstrates," says Barrow.

Ekklesia is backing the Convention, and facilitating a seminar on 'Faiths and Freedoms' that will include voices from a range of religious communities and perspectives.

Monday, 23 February 2009

And the winner is...

Getting up at the six o'clock news... Mark Regev with his Oz accent tells us Israel used legal weapons, used by all democratic governments, on Gaza. White phosphorus is a democratic weapon - yeah, it can kill anyone, rich or poor - just like the 'flu, which is also very democratic.
And then there is the news from the Liberal USA. And the winner is...
I smell a rat, but I have not seen it, and wonder whether I am interested at all.
I was a millionaire a few times in my life: visiting Turkey, and post-1989 Poland, why should I be interested in a show called Who wants to be a millionaire? Both in Poland and Turkey they slashed a few zeroes from the paper money. But being a millionaire is easy - go to Zimbabwe, or wait a few months and maybe the US itself will do...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hark! Never was singing heard like this! Hark!


A poor try at translation of a beautiful verse of Hendrik de Vries' Koorts (Fever). The original haunted me whilst lying awake in a hospital bed I landed in at amazing speed this week - having landed I was told there was no real urgency required, the ophthalmologist just wanted to remedy my sight. And Ophthalmology apparently does not have a waiting list in the hospital - this Sunday I was the only patient left, and I could leave too.

Since election day in NL in 2006 I saw the world in stereo. One car approaching on the road presented itself as four headlights - and which were the real couple? At the day itself I thought it was a consequence of the hard work of being vice-president of the voting bureau - yes, I am that kind of an anarchist, but it will not happen anymore.
A frightening and dangerous experience. It gave me a fresh perspective at some of Marc Chagall's works. Once I saw a girl in a red dress walking in the air past the roof on the fourth floor. I looked down at the square below: there was the real person walking. Another strange experience was a girl walking on the pavement towards me, carrying her head under her arm, while still having her head on top of her neck.
"Never a dull moment at parties. There is always twice as large a crowd as there is for others," a fellow-patient with a bitter sense of humour wrote. Unfortunately I had to stop club deejaying, because finding the right groove at eyesight proved difficult and hence musical whiteouts, which you simply cannot use on the floor, became too frequent.

This hallucinatory world was ended for me by a gush of radio-active iodine, appropriately given on August 6th, another day I will easily remember (Hiroshima! nuclear!). It ended my hyperthyroidism, and changed it into permanent hypothyroidism. But at least the world became mono again. And against hypothyroidism you can swallow a little white pill. For the rest of your life. Grumble grumble. Was there a choice?

It did not end eye problems though, and for a few years I was blessed with the holy gift of tears without really wanting to shed them (though quickly changing moods is part of the condition too, so the real Gift of Tears I also have). This week it looked like worsening and I was losing eyesight. And so I ended up with a prednisone drip in my arm.

After the infusion started I was told that it could lead to a temporary condition of diabetes, which very rarely may be permanent. Thanks very much for telling me now - having a rare disease with even rarer symptoms I actually lack confidence in not being the one to escape this rare chance.
My first shot of insulin led to dizziness and seeing insects crawling where there were none. So-called recreational drugs work on draining blood glucose levels too, unfortunately this was not recreation. Eating a tangerine rid me of the insects.
To be continued? Grumble grumble. Was there no choice?

Medical nemesis. Curing one disease or condition and giving you a new one, which might turn out to be worse.
A little girl with whom I shared a house for a while had leukemia at a very tender age (the house was next to a circuit rectifying station for the tram company, thank you very much again). She was cured completely of the leukemia by chemotherapy which unfortunately wrecked her young lungs and she simply suffocated at the age of seven. What can you say?
You must know stories of this kind yourself.
Bear with me, this is not completely a personal grumbling story.

*


Yes, Religious Anarchism or Christian Anarchism are Beloved of mine - I cannot say I love Jesus the way the confident girl asks in the Youtube video. Actually, please do not mind my saying this: He says His yoke is light but there are easier ways of living than trying to follow Him. And I do not think anyone is really able to follow Him completely. Love - you have to explain what you mean by that. There are times I can hate Him. Especially when I consider there is a good chance people calling themselves Christians are eagerly willing to persecute you because you take His words seriously. A light yoke? But there are some thinkers who combine the Spirit with Praxis who never would call themselves Religious Anarchists or Christian Anarchists who still can be deemed to be in the paradigm.

For example, the one that first crossed my mind in my lucubrative grumblings and rantings on fever (without having fever). The author of Medical Nemesis. Excommuncated gay priest. Propagating new monasticism (especially in Celebration of Awareness). Green thinker, ardent hater of the punitive expedition against youth called School. Anarchist and still as religious as you can get whilst calling yourself atheist, as far as I can see. Look at him, this way and expand the gallery of Religious Anarchists. Consider Ivan Illich!

Try someone else? Paul Virilio calls himself an anarchist as well as a Christian. Not a Christian Anarchist, though. I do not know whether he knows the synthesis.

Staying in the Francophone world: consider two intellectual friends of Ellul's: Bernard Charbonneau, Green thinker on the state - his L'état is specifically recommended by Ellul as the ultimate book on the state; or Denis de Rougemont, Swiss personalist. Personalism, as one of the feeding currents of the Catholic Worker, may be interesting to study itself, but there are some scary rightwingers around there too.

If religious-inspired thinkers like Marshall McLuhan or E.F. Schumacher should be fitted into a paradigm, what else can you think of but the antipolitics of anarchism, even though they did not call themselves anarchists? Anarchism is too good to leave it to just-the-anarchists (Of course the Youtube girl is right at this point).

Consider Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, as sharp a critical thinker on technology as Ellul and educator on non-violence, inspired by religion (he is Jew by origin, but takes a broader view).

There are more exemplary people to be included in the mighty Reader volume I wanted to design in my nocturnal fever pitch. For now I leave my story, have to chase some insects again and close this posting with a look at the sin bin of Religious Anarchism where we see designer Eric Gill. Do not leave out the Truly Embarrassing Folks when you aim at Completeness. (I confess of not having thought of any female thinkers outside NL, which I still consider My Own Territory on this subject. Simone Weil of course, but she is already paradigmatically accepted, I think).
Work to be done!
Thank you and good night.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

CAUK?

I just sent this around on the mailing list for people planning the next Christianity, Anarchism, and Peacemaking Conference (if there is one):
Dear all,

Well we've had three fascinating and very different events, each organised on a national scale on the assumption that local affinity groups (e.g. FOR, Catholic Worker, CPT, I58) already exist.

However, I got the impression in Sheffield that people felt the need for greater affinity and continuity between those who attended the conferences so that more people can participate in setting them up and so we can have a consistent, agreed, and transparent way of making decisions.

I know Jeff and others met since then in Sheffield but get the feeling that Adam is no longer planning to facilitate a small group to look at all these practicalities.

An Idea:
Those who are able, meet up at the London Anarchist Bookfair, engage in the issues of the day at that event and start to think about how CAUK (sic) can move forward. There are other book fairs at different dates around the country and people can arrange to meet up in cafe's / bars / dodgy alleyways around these too.

Meeting around existing events ...
is easier
helps us engage with the anarchist scene and reflect on that as followers of Jesus
Means that if it's only two us / you then there's still lots of other people to meet anyway!
Please respond to this idea and include whether you know of other likely anarchist events or any anarchist events you intend to participate in.


London
24 October Queen Mary & Westfield College, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS
Cardiff
Saturday 23rd May 2009 from 10am – 6pm at Cathays Community Centre, 36 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HX
Bristol
TBC
Manchester
TBC http://www.bookfair.org.uk/
Bradford
Usually at the 1 in 12 Club? Date: tbc

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

You Tube: An introduction to Christian anarchism?

A home truth about the Crisis

As far as so-called poor countries ("Third World Countries") are concerned, there is no sudden crisis. There has been Reform or Structural Adjustment Programmes. Adjustment to what?
You are not supposed to ask such questions.

Here you can find in the hollow, meaningless language of the pseudo-science called "economics" a report on how structural adjustment works in Malawi. The alleged purpose of the adjustment is industrialisation. There is, however, no industry. Agriculture is geared for export. The functions of the state which might have made it a decent institution (education, public transport etc.) are being stripped as necessary retrenchment measures.

And then, after 27 years of structural adjustment, a problem is detected.
There is hunger in the land. The use of food aid in a country of agricultural exports is being discussed.

It is not a breach with normality that makes up the daily catastrophe. The catastrophe is that things are going on as usual.

The actual implosion of Capital has been going on since around 1975. But this implosion is only called a crisis when it reaches the so-called developed world.
Maybe this means that the way to get rid of this social relation called Capital is closer at hand.

A bitter statement seen from the perspective of those who have been living the crisis for so long. Where living may mean dying from starvation or despair.

(Written after having read this and this.)

Monday, 16 February 2009

Long live St. Competition!


This might be addictive for me....

There is probably no mod...


...you'll have to make do with these punks.

Hat tip: Faith in Society.
Make your own slogan here and let your bus ride.
Being an ardent advocate of public transport I thought of this one immediately. But possibilities are well-nigh endless.
Spread the word wherever you can....

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Elective affinity of Jewish mysticism and anarchism

Whoever connects marxism to liberation theology has not understood Marx, and, as Jacques Ellul forcefully and convincingly argues in Jesus and Marx, has not understood the Gospel either. If there are political consequences to Christian belief then they should be found in the anti-politics of anarchism. Michael Löwy has written a popular book on liberation theology, but he should not be dismissed easily.

Projecting back the way of seeing applied in his Rédemption et utopie he finds a Wahlverwandtschaft (elective affinity) between liberation theologians and marxists/ “We anarchists” may shrug about this. But we cannot do that when Löwy states such an affinity between some selected Jewish thinkers (all male) with mystical or messianic character on one side and with anarchism on the other. He may be better equipped to move on this terrain, as a Jew and a seeker of paths to liberation. From the book I cannot conclude whether he chooses for affinity with anarchism (he is politically affiliated to trotskyism). But his taking stock leads the way to thoughts and names which are new to me in this field. Thinkers I think sympathetic but who I would not connect to anarchism are included in his Wahlverwandtschaft company. After reading this book I can connect my predilection for Fromm, Benjamin and the Frankfurter Schule with my own choice for anarchism and my interest in religious anarchism with each other. We may call this synthesis.

The Israeli critical theorist Ilan Gur-Ze’ev once told me that Herbert Marcuse saw the abandonment of linear time as the goal of revolution. This thought can be found in the last writings of Benjamin, and Marcus alludes to it in his contribution to the Dialectics of liberation in an inspired way. The theme apparently emerges in his literary remains. I have not read much of these yet but I willingly believe it. This subjec should be dealt with further. It indeed is a thought fitting to the eschatolgical strivings of (religious) anarchism. And apparently it belongs to the Jewish tradition rather than the Christian.

Löwy does not mention Marcuse at all, and Adorno and Horkheimer only in passing, and it is daring to elect people who have distanced themselves from the "dark" philosophy of anarchism and considered themselves to be marxists for this affinty. Löwy however concludes to this affinity as inevitable, and he does it convincingly. And let’s face it: the Frankfurt School referred to Marx, but they never were in step with one of the parties claiming to represent Marx’ inheritance. Strictly speaking Marx himself, at his best, might be seen as part of the company Löwy brings to the fore. L&oumlwy does not go that far. However, “we” anarchists may wonder whether we should not rescue the “libertarian Marx” from threatening perdition (Seán Sheehan does this in his Anarchism).

That Buber, Landauer and Kafka fit into both a Jewish and an anarchist paradigm is no surprise to me. The same might be said about Toller and Sperber. Heterodox marxists as Bloch and Lukács neither ever fully broke with anarchism nor with Jewish eschatology. And they are not far removed philosophically from the Frankfurters. Then there is Leo Löwenthal. But they were members of a party that considerd itself to be The Party. They may be forgiven with some hesitation. New names to me are Franz Rosenzweig and Gershom Scholem, who are distinctly mystics – frankly I never had given a thought to the kabbala, let alone that there would be a treasure of libertarian thoughts to be found there. A world, or a new dimension – how to express this – presented itself when I read the chapters on this subject. (Books by David A. Cooper, especially God is a verb, are a worthwhile read on this – he is a different Cooper from the one of Dialectics of liberation).

I am not convinced by the special Central European character of this combination of Jewish mysticism and anarchism Löwy claims. He mentions a West European exception to the rule of this elective affinity, namely Bernard Lazare. Might not Simone Weil, who was very interested in Christian mysticism – like Fromm, Landauer and others mentioned by Löwy -, but who never changed religious affiliation, and who was an anarchist with a light marxist touch, be a good example? We might even think of popular English radio rabbi Lionel Blue who does not sound much removed from anarchism. And then – my own specialism – the Netherlands have their own Jewish religious anarchists, like S. van den Berg for example.

But these are questions I would not have asked if I had not read Löwy’s book, so let’s not fret... Let’s work! And a the end of the tunnel, cannot I see a vista of broken clocks, heralding the end of linear time?

- Michael Löwy, Redemption and utopia - Jewish libertarian thought in Central Europe - a study in elective affinity. Published by Stanford University Press.

[This is a slightly actualized translation of a review I wrote in 2000. Interestingly, Löwy in his motley company also includes Albert Einstein, whom I did not dwell upon in the review.]

Issue 17: Kropotkin

Issue 17: Early Methodist Spontaneity

Issue 17: A Perspective on the Bruderhof

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Anarchist love-in today

Tabloid netzine (BBC) warns of Anarchists seeking plans to increase their numbers: old style.

Make love: not class war!

Colin Ward: A Clarification Needing Clarification

I received an encouraging email from Laurens Otter today some of which I feel honour-bound to republish here and in the next A Pinch of Salt. Many thanks Laurens.

"Colin Ward was never editor of Freedom, he worked closely with Vero Rheccione / Vernon Richards who was, (The AFB had - in order to avoid war-time regulations - vested owndership in Vero and Dr John H[?], when the split happned, Vero was left as owner) & for a short time after the '44 split there was (I believe, it was before my time) an editorial board round Vero & Mary Loiuse, & that may still ahve existed when Colin joined, so that he could have been a member of that; - you'd need to check with David Goodway (of the journal "Anarchist Studies").

When, after Suez-Hungary, the CND started, & interest in left politics was growing, Colin was in touch with people sympathetic to the New Left who found Freedom intellectually barren. Colin was then a "Revisionist Anarchist" & there was a fairly prolongued argument in Freedom with Colin wanting much longer articles. The few of us who were then active ... were equally disastisified but for different reasons. When the new paper was first proposed it was to be called Autonomie; it was only just before the launch that the name was changed."

I would welcome comments or further clarification on this from any readers? Help! I'd like to get this sorted out in my head for issue 19.

Being invaded is for the Others

The English language has more borrowings from my language than both sides are generally aware of. Some of them I like and give me a warm feeling about my language, like iceberg and landscape (in the present sense). Others make me feel uneasy, like beleaguer, ordeal and - worse - boss. But the internationally best known makes me cringe, even though the system was developed in the Southern United States, originally. It is as Dutch as Dutch can be.
It is of course apartheid.
And it is such a telling word with such a way of thinking and acting hidden behind it that this saddening politician with his silly coiffure cannot be such a surprise. Especially when the Dutch foreign minister specifically asks to let this politician into Great Britain, and the New Labour regime refuses him entry.
Let in the representative of so many citizens of that exemplary democracy!
Hurray. "We" are Headline News. Automatically I start thinking of we even though there is very little in Dutch politics I can identify with (alright, I am a member of the Party for the Animals, I confess....).

And just one day after this event the site which usually is my starting point on the net, Antiwar.com, has as a headline on the Frontline news from the Netherlands. About the Invasion of The Hague Act. From this news item:

Odd as it may seem, the law allows the US to constitutionally send jack-booted commandos to fly over fields of innocent tulips, swoop into the land of wooden shoes, tread past threatening windmills and sleepy milk cows into the Dutch capital – into a city synonymous with international law – and pry loose any US troops.

Today, the Dutch mostly treat the issue as a joke, a cowboy American moment. But it is widely felt that if President Barack Obama's foreign policy team wants to achieve a symbolic break with the previous White House, it could rescind the invasion law.


"We" have been invaded before. Last time it was in 1940 by a country you are now kindly requested to call "the nazis", but it was Germany, actually. It still is the biggest national trauma, even though subtly "we" are asked to think differently about it (by saying nazis instead of Germans, as I mentioned - after all, they have had God on their side for quite a while as Dylan tells us). Even the most obedient Friend of the US is not threatened by a special authorization for an invasion, but the second most obedient apparently is. And "we", innocently smoking cannabis and cherishing "our" red light districts - make that: tiptoeing in our wooden shoes through the tulips with windmills adorning the fields - do not deserve precision bombings and surgical strikes in the historic capital of Holland (officially Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, because the Constitution says so, but you are forgiven for making this mistake). What have "we" done to deserve this, after "our" loving participation in the destruction of the lands of ziggurats, Rabiya, Rumi, the giant Buddhas (oops)?

I am glad the Christian Science Monitor talked to Max van Weezel, a journalist who was once a faithful believer in bolshevism and now is as faithful to the idea of bombing Palestinians into submission (right or extreme right, my Israel). He tells us the threat is not taken very seriously.

Let's face it, this so-called International Criminal Court is not meant for people from countries which do the precision bombings. So the chance of George W. Bush or even some private from the US Army ever ending up in a prison cell in lovely Scheveningen is infinitesimally small. If this happens, something else must have changed radically in this world. And this will not happen under Barack Obama. Still, he probably will take no chances, so the Invasion Act will remain in force. "We" the Dutch shall have to live with the sin of harbouring the judicial capital of the world.

And now you must excuse me - I have to put on my klompen and go milk the cows (put out my spicy cigarette first, the ladies do not like that).

Friday, 13 February 2009

Nonviolence as a (Practical) Tool


For those of you who like not just thinking, but doing (or experiencing), FoR (Fellowship of Reconciliation) is running a practical training weekend this summer. Exploring the theme of Nonviolence as a (practical) tool, the weekend asks:

"What does nonviolence mean in practical terms and how can it be applied to our campaigning and lives?"


The weekend event is for 18 to 30 (ish) year olds who are interested, active and/ or engaged in peace and conflict issues and who want to explore nonviolence and its uses. It offers the opportunity for those new to the subject, or old-time campaigners, to learn new skills, practice applying them, and discuss nonviolence as a tool for social change. With expert speakers and skills training, the event provides an opportunity to join a community of like-minded individuals from across the UK.

The Weekend is 3rd to 5th July 2009, and is held in north London. To find out more about the weekend please visit the FoR website, email martha@for.org.uk or phone the FoR office.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Dancing like an ostracised imp

The paper edition of A pinch of salt contains a piece which I think challenging: Rewilding and the importance of animism in religion. It is an edited verbatim of Rob Mckay's notes from his seminar at "The world turned upside down; Christianity, anarchism, and peacemaking", Sheffield 2008. I was not present at this conference, at which apparently most visitors were different from those gathered in Bradford 2007 or Leeds 2006. So maybe it was all the better I was not there. Yet Rob touches on a subject on which there is a lot to be said and I will try to mention some points:
Religion aims to explain the mysteries of nature and the way human culture relates to it. Civilised religions place human beings as far higher than the rest of life on earth. The acts of categorising and controlling nature alienate humans from the land.

Animism is the religious contention that everything has a soul. Animists consider human community to be equal to the other plant and animal communities - not dominant and alien to them.

If religion is to serve the human community in connecting to the rest of nature it must be based in animism. To animistic cultures their land base will speak its needs as clearly as these words speak to you or I. The myths of an animistic religion are grounded in the land. So in order to make religion more animistic we must weave the written myths back in to the land base to bring it back to life again.

In other words: rewild.

Living in a country where what is called nature is never older than the oldest building in its surroundings I frankly see no opportunity to start rewilding. Unless I am allowed to dwell on one of the few really wild islands, the wildest of which turns out to be even less wild than I still dreamt. There can be no myths relating to a landscape or nature that has a (human) history which can be followed. There can be legends about how certain places came into being, I know some of them. There are ghost stories - I know one which I was told by people independently from each other and not knowing each other, so it was too good not to be true. And there are fairy tales, the English word refers to the presence of fairies or other elementals. Some of these are also too good not to be true. But then, ghosts and fairies, and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night still ask for a good God to deliver us.... They cannot be a foundation for organised religion (they can be part of the original meaning of the Latin word religio, fear of the numinous. but I am not going into that now).

"Religion aims to explain the mysteries of nature" - etcetera. If that is a description or even a definition, I see no difference with science. Maybe it means that for the unexplainable, the ever-mysterious, we need religion. But in the end one has to say about the Mystery, quoting Wittgenstein: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

"The acts of categorising and controlling nature alienate humans from the land." That may be true, but there is no way back. I cannot pretend not to know the difference between a blackbird and a fieldfare and not to see they are biologically related as members of the thrushes family. Even less than I am arguing against ghosts or fairies I deny they have a soul. Of course they have. So do all living creatures and even supposedly non-living "things" like enterprises, organisations, cities, states even, houses, ships. Accepting the idea of entelecheia for all this does not make me an animist. It does not even make me a primitivist. I might be a Christian for a'that. By the way, Christ Himself had to do with ghosts and demons, more than He probably will have liked: see for example Luke 8:7-39.

Saying that a religion must be this or that goes very much against what I may call my anarchist instinct. Giving the prescription that we must find myths to reconnect to the land sounds as authoritarian, and may end up in kitsch.

Some sites the reader may consider in connection with the subject(s): Mythic cartography and Pantheism.

On Non-violent Resistance: Tolstoy's Reflections on the Relevance of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount

This coming Monday, the Kent Palestine Solidarity Group will host a talk on Tolstoy's view on non-violent resistance.

Time and Place Date: 16 February 2009
Time: 18:30 - 20:00
Location: KLT2 (Keynes College)
Town/City: Canterbury, United Kingdom

Decription:
In today’s “war on terror,” Tolstoy would lament both sides’ readiness to use violence to reach their aims; and he would call for Christians in particular to courageously enact the rational wisdom contained in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Tolstoy’s exegesis of Christianity may be too literal and too rationalistic, and may lead to an exceedingly utopian political vision; but it articulates a refreshingly peaceful method for religion to shape politics, one that can moreover and paradoxically be related to by non-Christians precisely because of its alleged grounding in reason.

Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos will touch on the previous and its relation to nonviolent resistance, as well as answer any questions you might have on the issue.

Link to the Facebook page for the event: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=48965587013#/event.php?eid=61243947754
Link to Alexandre Christoyannopoulos' web page: http://sites.google.com/site/christoyannopoulos/

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Bears, Wolves and Clowns: Developing a Playful Creativity – by Jonathan Dorsett

It was a clear skied August day in the bustling Alpine resort. Holiday makers rubbed shoulders with locals in the outdoor cafes and bars that surrounded the busy market place. Fashionable young Italians paraded themselves around the square, while older jacketed men played backgammon under the shade of the olive trees by the central fountain. It was a timeless and tranquil scene, only broken by the arrival of the gleaming red open-top Lotus.

All heads turned at the sound of the thumping music that emanated from the car’s stereo as it drew up at the pedestrian crossing by one of the alfresco bars; the driver clearly looking for admiration as he proudly showed-off his handsome vehicle and his cargo of exquisitely beautiful young ladies. An almost hypnotic spell descended upon the on-looking crowd as the middle aged man behind the wheel soaked up the attention with a pompous smile and general air of self importance. The feeling of envy and awe in those watching could have remained unbroken had it not been for the clown who, by chance, was waiting at the crossing as the driver pulled up.

Seeing the arrogance and superiority of the Lotus owner, and perhaps sensing the effect his Lording-over was having on the crowd, the clown sidled up to the car, squatted down in a mimed seated position next to the driver, stretched out his arms in front of himself as if holding a steering wheel, and honked his imaginary horn before combing his fingers back through his hair as one might imagine the slick looking man next to him doing. The effect on both the onlookers and the driver was instantaneous. Envy and awe were replaced by mirth and laughter; the driver’s self-importance and attention seeking were suddenly deflated by shame and embarrassment. As the clown continued on his journey across the road and the driver sped off out of town, a lightness and feeling of joyful commonality was shared by all in the square.

What happened in that moment was a piece of transformational creativity and playful activism that turned the power dynamic between the driver and on-lookers on its head. As a friend recounted the story to me a few years ago, I was reminded about the power of creativity in unmasking the pretensions and social constructs within which we ensnare ourselves.

‘Creativity and Expression’ is one of the five key exploration areas that we explore on the Peace School programme. Creativity is a fundamental part of our being that we all share and have access to; not something confined only to those who follow artistic pursuits. Our creativity is part of what makes us human. When the bible speaks of God making us in His image, I believe a huge part of this is our creative drive and ability that we see in God Himself as creator.

Reflecting on the story of the Clown and the Lotus, three strands of creativity that we explore on Peace School come alive for me . . . [more]

On death penalty, torture and meeting Jesus

Doug Tjapkes speaks at Cities for Life rally in Toronto, On.

(Nov. 2008)

It must be something in the air...
After I wrote this there is Evangelicals for Social Action bringing out a magazine proclaiming I was in prison and you visited Me (it is on the pdf of the complete issue, which unfortunately I cannot place here). And then today there is my friend Doug Tjapkes from Muskegon, MI, under the same title. A good opportunity to ask some attention for his site:

I had driven about 400 miles in one day…200 to the prison, 200 back home.

I was still sorting through my emotions when I said to Marcia: “I’m not sure how to say this, but I think that I’m the privileged one to visit a prisoner.”

She quickly responded. “When I worked for hospice, and sat with the family of a loved one at the actual time of death, I felt that I was standing on holy ground! There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s where you were.”

I thought of the lyrics of that old gospel song: We are standing on holy ground, for I know that there are angels all around…

Kevin is 16 years old, and has already served a year in a prison system where he doesn’t belong. He’s been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. For a mentally challenged juvenile in an adult world, it has been anything but easy, as proven by the ugly scars on his arm. Failure to get proper medication, long hours in isolation, scorn and ridicule. His excellent condition and demeanor today are testament to his loving mother’s 24/7 vigil, an around-the-clock fight for the rights of her son!

When he entered the room my first thought was: ‘This could be one of my grandkids!” Then came the uneasy second thought: “Can two people with an age difference of over 50 years connect?”

“Are you hungry?” One of my first questions. I had brought my limit of quarters for the vending machines. “I’m always hungry!” A killer smile! Why was his answer no surprise?

We started out with a breakfast sandwich and a Pepsi. We switched to sweets: M&Ms and a Snickers bar. The desserts for his meal were an apple fritter AND a piece of apple pie! He was right: a voracious appetite! I grinned as he wolfed down the food. He was so polite. “Please.” “Thank you!”

We talked of prison facilities (the juvenile facility has been closed); we talked of guard abuse of mentally ill prisoners (one prisoner’s eye was swollen shut and bones were broken because guards beat him while he was strapped down); we talked of prisoner guard behavior (some of them seem to enjoy making fun of mentally ill prisoners, imitating them or laughing at them); we talked about Kevin (I want to make a difference; I was placed here for a reason; I want to write a book; I want to speak at public meetings; I want to work in YOUR business when I get out!). His slightly herky-jerky speech pattern was the only indication that this young man has any problem. We had a delightful conversation!

I had to leave. There was a long drive ahead.

We shook hands. I allowed that I needed a hug, also. “My mom gives me a hug when she leaves!”

I did well...not until I reached the car did the tears flow.

Did I do the right things, God? Did I say the right words?

We are standing on holy ground for I know that there are angels all around.


Doug Tjapkes
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

hi

Just to let you all know i have finally signed up. not sure how but it works.
Thanks,
Jeff

Monday, 9 February 2009

Some requests for Mr. Obama

William Blum is summing up on foreign policy against the embodiment of Hope for Change in the USA, and it is not a pretty picture.
The surprising story is near the end: the sickening truth about Lockerbie. Sometime, when it is in the imperialist interests of the regimes in Washington and London, they will bring out the apparent truth about the responsibility for this act of state terrorism. Ironically, we should hope there will be no such opportunity. (To understand these remarks you have to read the piece by William Blum, given in the link).

One point Blum does not mention: the fate of the Chagossians. An entire people deported for a US base in the centre of the Indian Ocean, from which East Africa, the Middle East and the Subcontinent including Afghanistan can be conveniently bombed. Which has been done. With the blessing of the British law lords who decided in an amazing judgement that the State has to decide where you may end up to be living, a kind of verdict to be expected in fascist Italy or nazi Germany. Unfortunately, we are no longer surprised nor shocked by such a verdict.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Friday, 6 February 2009

Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) 5 FEBRUARY 2009

PEACE WOMEN DEFEAT MINISTRY OF DEFENCE IN FREEDOM TO PROTEST CASE

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) byelaw banning camping ouside the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston was quashed by the court of appeal today. The case, heard on 26th November 2008, was an appeal in the Judicial Review of the Secretary of State for Defence's decision to introduce byelaws which would have criminalised camping as a form of peaceful protest.

The case brought by Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) hinged on whether the government’s ban on camping violated their rights to freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Speaking outside the court after today's judgement, a representative from the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp said “We welcome today's outcome, which is not only a victory for the women's peace camp but an important judgement on the right to protest. Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp will continue to hold our lawful camp to protest against the government's unlawful nuclear weapons".

Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) have been camping outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment every month for the last 24 years, in opposition to the manufacture of UK's nuclear weapons. Following the original hearing on 1st February 2008, the court quashed a byelaw outlawing the attaching of banners to the perimeter fence. The MoD chose not to appeal. Today's judgement reverses the original ruling that the ban on camping was justified.

In a unanimous verdict, the Court of Appeal today rejected the Secretary of State for Defence's arguments saying, “Rights worth having are unruly things”. The byelaw prohibiting camping was quashed and the women's peace camp is no longer criminalised. This ruling has an impact beyond AWPC and the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory. It strengthens the right to protest and legitimises camping as a form of protest.


Monday, 2 February 2009

Candlemass - a homily of sorts


The Presentation of the Lord, popularly known as Candlemass, only became known to me, grown up as I am in the Reformed tradition, through contact with the Catholic Church. Probably it was too obvious a feast with a pagan background. Being the 40th day after Christmas it marks the bordering of the two different periods of Christmas and Easter.

Apart from the perhaps very syncretist background of the feast - which Christian feast does not have that origin? - the story in the gospel on which it is based is confusing. We read in Luke 2:
[22] And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
[23] (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
[24] And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
[25] And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
[26] And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
[27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
[28] Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

Nunc dimittis, is what he said, even though Simeon undoubtedly must have spoken Aramaic and behold, his hymn in Scripture is in Greek. The King James Version lets him sing in English. Never mind, that is not a problem. A problem can be based upon Matt. 2:
[11] And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
[12] And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
[13] And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

So after Epiphany, ten days after the day of the Holy Innocents, the couple with the newborn child went to Egypt and stayed there for three years. Still they were in the Temple in Jerusalem on the fortieth day.

Maybe the Reformed Church was embarassed by this illogical incongruity and chose the Egyptian story instead of the Presentation in Jerusalem. It cannot be discarded but you'd better not stress it...
Fortunately, Holland is not as protestant as popular stories would like to tell now, so Rembrandt van Rijn made at least three paintings of the Presentation. There is one at the top of this entry.

Less rationalist traditions still accept the mythical background of Scripture. It was never meant to be read as a railway guide. But accepting it as mythical is becoming more difficult by the day, it seems, to a Church which at the same time is complaining about secularisation.

I would love to see the mythical status of the Bible restored to its rightful place, but this is a wish against a tide which I fear is irresistible. As yet anyway.

But I can give you this thought of Christian anarchist Louis A. Bähler, Dutch Reformed minister, both rationalist and mystic, who called it a blessing that there are so many internal contradictions in the Bible. This way it can only be seen as a democratic book, no-one can claim to be Right in the interpretation. Let this be our reply when we meet people from a certain bus who command us to enjoy our life.