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[casi] !IT! - "For whom the bell tolls"

(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.

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

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

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