Posts Tagged ‘Shrines’

The Ancient Near East as the Birthplace of Democracy

May 15, 2017

This is a bit of a rejoinder to Boris ‘Mugwump’ Johnson. Johnson, as a public schoolboy steeped in the Classics, believes that everything great and good began with ancient Greece and Rome. But a few years ago I put up a blog post about a book, The Origins of the Democracy in the Ancient Near East, which argued that the roots of democracy went further back, and further east, than ancient Greece. It began instead in the popular assemblies, which governed ancient mesopotamian civilisations such as the city state of Mari.

I found this passage about the democratic nature of ancient near eastern civilisation in the entry ‘Law (Mesopotamian)’ in Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd 1966), 356-359. This states

The pattern of society in early Mesopotamia has been described as “primitive democracy”. There was an assembly (Sumerian ukkin, Akkadian puhrum) of the elders and young men with whom they chieftain or leader (antecedant of the later king) must consult. All major decisions were put to a vote. In addition, the cheiftain was obliged to give to his tutelary deity an annual account of his conduct of authority during the previous year. No doubt here also, as in the case of Egypt, there was drastic modification in practice especially in later years when, for example, such strong men as Sargon of Akkad, Hammurabi of Babylon or Sennacherib of Assyria ruled. But the principle remained in daily life as a unique characteristic of Mesopotamian civilization and spread into Syria and Anatolia as well. 356.

I don’t doubt that in the half century since the book was published, this view of ancient near eastern society as democratic has been revised. I think the book that came out about it a few years ago said that these states weren’t democratic. However, popular assemblies did exist.

Mesopotamia was the old name for the area that is now Iraq, and I wonder how much of its ancient history and precious archaeology has survived the western invasion by Bush and Blair, sectarian conflict and the destructive fury of ISIS. Nicholas Wood in his book, The Case Against Blair, describes how the Americans trashed Babylon when they chose to make it into one of the bases. And the barbarians of ISIS released a vide of them levelling Nineveh and destroying priceless antiquities in one of Iraq’s museums.

And their fury against anything they judge to be un-Islamic isn’t confined to the ancient past. They’ve also desecrated and destroyed Christian churches and the country’s Muslim shrines and mosques. And this is besides the horrific carnage and destruction which the war and its aftermatch have unleashed on the region and its people.

Iraq was one of the major centres of world civilisation, and the destruction of its ancient monuments and artefacts is a massive loss. And all because Bush, Blair and the Saudis wanted to steal the country’s oil and other state-owned industries for American big business.

The Paris Bombings: A Sign of Islamist Weakness?

November 22, 2015

This might sound absurd, but I do wonder if the atrocities committed last week in Paris by ISIS were a sign of that organisations weakness, rather than its strength. Of course the organisation would like to present these as proof of its extensive reach, and that no-one in Europe is safe from their attacks. They’d like us to think that at any time, their warriors can come forward, kill and maim, before either dying in a hail of bullets, or fading back into the crowd.

And if they fall, they want us to believe, that there are thousands of others waiting to take their place.

Well, that’s what they’d like us to believe. They’d also like us to believe that they have the support of untold millions of Muslims, all ready to die for the jihad against the Kaffir. Which is just about everyone, who doesn’t believe in their weird form of Islam.

I think the opposite is true, simply by the fact that they have targeted Paris. I came across a complaint on one site by someone with an Islamic name, complaining that 92 per cent of all ISIS’ victims have been Muslims, but after the Paris attacks ‘White people think it’s all about them.’ I dislike the tone of racial bitterness, but think that the point is a good one. The vast majority of the people butchered by the jihadis probably are Muslims. I’ve blogged before about how they kill, beat and maim Muslims, who don’t sign up to their crazed theology, and demolish mosques and other Muslim shrines they considered ‘un-Muslim’. Some of the Muslim places of worship and veneration they’ve destroyed are nearly a millennium and half old. If they’re somehow ‘un-Islamic’, then it’s been lost on the builders and generations of worshippers for centuries. Mysteriously, only ISIS have realised just how un-Islamic they are after all this. I’m saying this to show just how peculiar and sectarian ISIS’ interpretation of Islam is.

From what I’ve read and seen on the news, the actual number of fighters ISIS can mobilise in Iraq and elsewhere is actually quite sure. Where they’ve got support, it’s because they’ve kept on the technicians and engineers managing the towns they take. So when a town falls to them, its people still have electricity and water.

I can remember reading in one of the papers, or perhaps it was Private Eye, that the IRA deliberately concentrated its bombing campaign in Britain, rather than Ulster. They found out that support tended to wane when they murdered people in the Six Counties. It’s hard to keep up your supporters’ hatred for their victims, if they physically see people in the areas they personally know being killed, and the suffering of the bereaved and wounded.

So terrorists have to concentrate on people their supporters won’t see, except on TV screens, whom they can demonise and deny any human feelings or value to. After all, their supporters won’t meet them personally, work with them, or even have to walk along the same streets they use on their way to and from work in the morning. No personal contact means no sympathy. Victims on TV screens don’t generate quite the same shock and sympathy as those murdered on the same streets on which others live and work. They’re just images, and as Sting sang way back in the Live Aid concert, ‘You can turn it off if you want to’.

And Goebbels also realised that if the Nazis wanted to gain the support of the peoples of the countries they occupied, they should be treated leniently. Harsh treatment would only alienate people and increase resistance. If a Nazi leader in one of the occupied countries was assassinated, instead of carrying out mass killings in retaliation, they should respond by inflicting only a trivial, but irksome punishment. Like confiscating everyone’s bicycles. It was a policy that unfortunately did have some success, until Hitler overruled him in France and started murdering whole villages. That had the opposite it, and increased sympathy for the resistance, and hostility to the invaders.

My guess is that something similar is happening now with the Paris bombings. They need to strike at the West, at people they can demonise as remorseless, infidel oppressors after butchering Muslims in the areas they occupy. Perhaps they were even rattled by the exodus of the Syrian refugees. They can hardly represent themselves as the true defenders of all true Muslims when many of those true Muslims have shown they’d rather live among the infidels in Europe than amongst their glorious caliphate.

So I think that it’s likely the terrorist bombings in Paris are a sign of weakness, rather than strength. It’s a fa├žade, in order to make us overestimate the true strength of their support. ISIS are still extremely dangerous – you only need a very small number of committed terrorists to wreak extensive devastation, but I believe this actually shows the weakness of their support in Iraq and Syria, not their strength.

They’re also hoping that we’ll over-react, so that they can pose of the true defenders of Islam against infidel Western aggression. Let’s be realistic about their aims and the true size of their support, and treat them accordingly. This needs careful, selective action, not the application of further brute force.