Category Archives: Blogging from A to Z challenge

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Zadig

Zadig He is a fictional character, without historical substance, but his author intended him to show how little control mankind has on her destiny.

The year was 1747, and Voltaire also wanted to say something about orthodoxy, the established order and the rule of logic. The Book of Fate is a work of considerable influence on writers across the western world, from the Marquis de Sade to Thomas Henry Huxley.

“As Zadig was immensely rich, and had consequently Friends without Number; and as he was a Gentleman of a robust Constitution, and remarkably handsome; as he was endowed with a plentiful Share of ready and inoffensive Wit: And, in a Word, as his Heart was perfectly sincere and open, he imagined himself, in some Measure, qualified to be perfectly happy. For which Purpose he determined to marry a gay young Lady (one Semira by name) whose Beauty, Birth and Fortune, rendered her the most desirable Person in all Babylon. He had a sincere Affection for her, grounded on Honour, and Semira conceived as tender a Passion for him.”

Abstract from Zadig, or The Book of Fate, at the Project Gutenberg

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Yesterday

Science may one day shatter the mystery of time, and with time, most of our delusions. When was yesterday? And why should today, tomorrow, be different from yesterday? As often, the answer to such questions is better found in poetry.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
oh, I believe in yesterday
Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

Why she had to go?
I don’t know, she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she had to go?
I don’t know, she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Songwriters
LENNON, JOHN / MCCARTNEY, PAUL

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Xenophobia

William Holman Hunt - The Scapegoat Simplistically, xenophobia is “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”, that is “foreigners”.

The English Wikipedia article explains that “Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”. Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action urges all governments to take immediate measures and to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, where necessary by enactment of appropriate legislation including penal measure.”

Behind the words hides a world of complexities. The incitement to hate, and even destruction, of scapegoats is as old as politics. Many of the tragedies of the last and this century, from Europe to Africa and Asia, were the result of deliberate attempts by demagogue politicians to channel popular anger towards “the other”. The most obvious example in western countries today is the call to stop the alleged flow of unwanted immigrants from various parts of the world, orchestrated by conservative and sometimes openly racist parties.

Image: William Holman Hunt – The Scapegoat

#AtoZAprilChallenge: (On) War

Vom KriegeHe wrote from a position of knowledge: that of people who have been there, who stared defeat in the face, felt the icy lips of Death, and, later, much later, realised the sweetness of victory. He’s an officer’s officer, the strategist of the European legend.

When Carl von Clausewitz started writing his book, “On War”, shortly after 1806, the proud Kingdom of Prussia, the successors of the Great Frederic, had seen the most humiliating defeat of her history, at the hands of Napoleon, the French Emperor, then at the apogee of his power.

When the book was published, in 1832, Prussia, and her ally Russia, had defeated Napoleon, and was on her way to play the leading role in the German unification, thirty years later. The monument to the extraordinary battles of the “War of Liberation” are still to be seen today all over Brandenburg and Saxony, and in the German capital, Berlin.

On War is the bible of all officers schools worldwide, and despite having been written in the age of cavalry charges and bayonets, is still a key reference of modern warfare, consulted by the great warriors of our times, from the German and Russian generals of WorldWar II, to general Vo Nguyen Giap – he of Dien-Bien-Phu‘s fame – to US General Petraeus, author of the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” of the US Army and Marine Corps.

Read also:

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

The US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, General David H. Petraeus & al.

War of the Flea, Robert Taber

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Vinyl

VinylWith the wonders of  “digital remastering” ancient rockers of my generation can enjoy again the pleasures of old  7-inch records, discovering or rediscovering long forgotten musical treasures . Ah! The good old “45 tours” (45 RPM) vinyl marvels, with their fragile paper covers, the beautiful or garish pictures of young stars in action… Ah Gene Vincent, Billy Holly, the young King… rock n’ roll, jazz, be-bop, blues… The little objects scattered on the floor of our rooms, sometimes mixed with the peeled off garments and undergarments of boyfriends and/or girlfriends, sometimes broken… Vinyl and Coca-Cola…

Vinyl, they say, enjoys a revival. A good thing for sure, for those of us lucky enough to still own a working turntable… And the sound of the needle scratching the surface! No serious mixing without needles and vinyl! Oh glory of vinyl!

Image: vinyl records shops in a small area (Reuterkiez) of Berlin-Kreuzberg, courtesy of Taz Berlin (issue of 17/18 April 2014)

Vinyl Records Store

The eight tribes of vinyl collector

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Utilitarian

John Stuart Mill “Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Classic utilitarianism’s two most influential contributors are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.” (English Wikipedia)

From Williams’ Keywords: “Utilitarian has one complication: that it is a description of a particular philosophical system, which in practice has been widely adopted, though usually without reference to the formal name. It is also a description of a limited class of qualities or interests, practical or material. Many would say that this double sense has a single root; that it is the inevitable consequence of a particular kind of materialist philosophy. But utilitarian is very much like materialist in that it has been loaded with the aspersions of its enemies just as much as with the consequences of its own assumptions… Utilitarian, as a conscious description, was first used in English by Jeremy Bentham: to express an emphasis, in 1781, and to name, with a capital letter, the ‘professors of a new religion’ (1802). An action was ‘conformable to the principle of utility… when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it’. Happiness, in fact, was the key word of the system, as again in John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism, 1861): ‘happiness… the only thing describable as an end’… Moreover, within the specific utilitarian system, characteristically limited definitions of usefulness – both its characteristic specialisation to the individual and the brisk but limited practicality which Mill described as adequate only for ‘regulating the merely business part of the social arrangements’ – came to predominate, and to limit the concept of both pleasure and happiness. It became, ironically, the working philosophy  of a bureaucratic and industrial capitalist society.”

See also:

Wikipedia article on Jeremy Bentham

The History of Utilitarianism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Utilitarian Philosophers

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Tradition

Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand This common word has many meanings: Williams writes that it derived from Latin: tradere – to hand over or deliver. “It is easy to see how a general word for matters handed down from father to son could become specialised, within one form of thought, to the idea of necessary respect and duty… Tradition survives in English as a description of a general process of handing down, but there is a very strong and often predominant sense of this entailing respect and duty.”

How long does it take to make anything traditional? Two generations? But some traditions are age-old, and a matter of ceremony, duty and respect: religious traditions for example. Yet “tradition and especially traditional are now often used dismissively… Indeed traditionalism seems to be becoming specialised to a description of habits and beliefs inconvenient to virtually any innovation.”

Do you consider yourself a traditionalist?

Photo: Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand