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(IT = inspirational transgression) Dear All, Here, as inspiration and as encouragement, are some words from Meditation 17 in "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions" by Donne. I hope you'll forgive me this little transgression. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by John Donne (1571-1631) No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe, everyman is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee... ------ I feel the sentiments conveyed have a great bearing on Iraq, on the future of mankind, and the survival of the human spirit. You feel that too? In this sense, Donne's words complement the words from Zarathustra's Prayer Call. Exploitation and injustice triumphed then (some 8000? years ago): "Yes, they live well, but off the want of others" says Zarathustra. But the victimized 'others' will overcome, not by resignation but by focusing on life, he believed: "Set free for us, once more, this earth, now she is but a sacrifice for those gone mad. Ideologues and victimizers reign in life, but, siding with that life, we will prevail." And obviously humanity did prevail - on the strength of the human spirit. Exploitation, terror, plunder, and persecution also reigned when Donne wrote his words in 1624. And being seriously ill, he had time to reflect on the gross injustices of his time. The Thirty Years' War was then in its sixth year. Ostensibly about religion, much of it was about power - and territorial or financial gains. In France they were persecuting and slaughtering the Huguenots. The Inquisition was still torturing and liquidating Jews and Muslims, especially in Spain. In England they had stopped burning Catholics in open places - imprisoning them instead. (Donne's younger brother died in prison for his beliefs.) In addition, bankrupt European kings and queens were sending 'explorers' across the world - to 'discover' it. They discovered gold, spices, hides, minerals, coffee, tea... And in the process of discovery, they exterminated indigenous cultures. Worldwide, millions were killed and displaced so that in Europe they could live well, 'off the want of others'. And in the wake of the European conquistadores, the Christian missionaries dealt the final blow - robbing the vanquished of their beliefs and language. These were Donne's times. And once again the human spirit did prevail. But this would not have been possible without inspiration. Humanity would have gone nowhere at any time without inspiration, ie, encouragement. Both Zarathustra and Donne give the same reason for their desire to keep the human spirit alive: "I pray thus only because I love mankind", says the former. And "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde", says Donne. Both were motivated by spiritual considerations. In secular terms, the motive may simply be called _empathy_. I was reminded of Donne by the closing remark in one of Peter's news commentaries: "I continue to believe", he said, "that the human spirit must strive against it [the US 'manifest destiny'] but, for the moment, it is difficult to see what positive form that striving can take." Yes, it's hard, very hard. And devouring daily the propaganda the western media dishes up isn't doing much for the human spirit either. Nor does it inspire positive solutions. Propaganda too is 'inspiration' - of the wrong kind: you get brainwashed or discouraged. The empathy for mankind, as suggested by Zarathustra and Donne, is probably the most important incentive to wanting to strive for the survival of humanity and the human spirit. Donne's empathy, while perhaps mainly inspired by his religious beliefs, also stemmed from his exposure to other cultures: He spoke several languages and lived in Spain, Italy, and France. His message in Meditation 17 also suggests the absence of racial and cultural prejudice. Equally absent are the presumptions of a 'superior' western culture - presumptions which most Europeans and their transatlantic cousins haven't shed to this day. "All Mankinde is of one author and is one volume", says Donne. This too is important. How can you strive against the ambitions of the present-day conquistadores if you secretly share their prejudices? And if you condone the double standards practised by western governments and their hanger-on NGOs? To Donne, I think, it would have been obvious that the same standards need to be applied, as Emir suggests in the discussion about HRW: "Like knowledge, morality or justice may take many forms or systems; but each of them has to be internally consistent. All justice disappear if it fails the test of internal consistency." Here is another excerpt from Meditation 17 that seems to indicate Donne's position. It's also a beautiful metaphor, I think: "All Mankinde is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another." --- If you can accept the spirit of this, you will find ways to create positive thought so that the human spirit will overcome our corrupt and brutal times. You will also find the courage to reject the lies aimed to whitewash the atrocities committed on the Iraqi people by western governments. For example, you couldn't then condone the title of an article posted on CASI: "Were Sanctions Right?" This wording isn't right. It isn't even wrong. It is merely obscene in its callousness. People in countries that have had to endure the arrogance of western colonizers understand this well. They also understand the Iraqis' feelings about the occupation. That's why public opinion in India is almost unanimously opposed to sending mercenaries to Iraq - the second time round. (In the 1920s Indian troops helped to occupy Iraq, at the behest of their British masters.) It is the first time since the construction of a modern state that the Iraqis have been occupied by an alien power, writes an Indian journalist. "This, to a proud people claiming a hoary legacy of civilization, cannot but gall" he adds. He concludes: "We must not forget that what has happened (and is happening) in Iraq concerns not just the Iraqi people, but all of us. And he is right, I think. So let's strive to keep that human spirit alive, lest we all end up as crosses between the denizens of _Brave New World_ and of _1984_. My apologies for this lengthy litany - I got carried away. Best wishes, Elga Sutter _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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