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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam War’

Iraqi vs American Lives: Comparing Relative Value of Lives Lost

April 28, 2012 2 comments

Are American lives the only lives that are of value? The most valuable? Do the deaths of other peoples, count? At all …

After 100 years of malintent towards the Islamic world, what does the US expect? Milk of human kindness from Pakistan?  |  Cartoon by Daryl Cagle; source and courtesy - msnbc.msn.com  |  Click for image.

After 100 years of mal-intentions towards the Islamic world, what does the US expect? Milk of human kindness from Pakistan? | Cartoon by Daryl Cagle; source and courtesy – msnbc.msn.com | Click for image.

Rhetoric apart

Is there is a difference in the value of a life?

Is an African life less valuable than an Asian life? Is a European life worth more than an Asian life? Are South American lives of no consequence, compared to US lives?

It appears so!

Lives less valuable

Thirty years after the Vietnam war ended, and forty years after the Vietnam war became serious, American media counts only 60,000 Americans killed. American media conveniently glosses over the 20 lakhs Vietnamese killed.

US soldiers trying to prop up the house of cards that Bush made  |  Cartoon by Clay Bennett; taking off on the iconic Joe Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima Pulitzer Prize photograph taken on February 23, 1945, of US Marines raising the US flag  |  Click for image.

US soldiers trying to prop up the house of cards that Bush made | Cartoon by Clay Bennett; taking off on the iconic Joe Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima Pulitzer Prize photograph taken on February 23, 1945, of US Marines raising the US flag | Click for image.

In Iraq, after 10 lakh dead Iraqis, the US Empire counts, its’ own less than 5000 dead.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with George Bush Jr., and Oprah Winfrey. Both Bush and Oprah talk of only the American dead.

What of the Iraqis? Libyans? Or the Viets!

Vietnam, Iraq or Libya did not invade USA.

As the invader, the responsibility of all killings and deaths in the war is with USA.

Although weapons of mass destruction were never found, President Bush says inspectors reported that Hussein was still very dangerous. “We may not have found the vials, but he had the capacity to make weapons,” he says. “The point I make is that Saddam Hussein in power today would mean the world would be less stable and more dangerous, and 25 million Iraqis would be living under the thumb of a brutal, ruthless dictator. My point is the world’s better with him gone.”

In 2007, President Bush made another controversial decision and ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Since the war began, 4,421 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives—a fact the former commander in chief says weighs on him.

“It weighs heavily because I know that the decision I made disrupted somebody’s life in a big way,” he says. “It would weigh more heavily on me, however, if I had cared more about my political standing and less about completing the mission.” (via President George W. Bush Talks About the Iraq War – Oprah.com).

For the last 30 years, US has been placing zero value on Afghan lives - starting with President Reagan  |  Cartoonist Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (March 20, 2012); source: McClatchy   |  Click for image.

For the last 30 years, US has been placing zero value on Afghan lives – starting with President Reagan | Cartoonist Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (March 20, 2012); source: McClatchy | Click for image.

Invasion of Iraq and Libya would have been justifiable if killings were to lessen.

Measured by numbers of people killed, Saddam and Gaddafi killed fewer people than the wars initiated by Pax Americana.


Powerful China Afraid of 11 Buddhist Monks?

December 7, 2011 18 comments

Why does the death of 11 Buddhist preachers in Tibet by self-immolation make the Chinese quake in their jack-boots!

Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation that set of the Vietnam War and end of colonialism in Vietnam.  |  Image by Malcolm Browne; source and courtesy - iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com|  Click for larger source image.

Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation that set off the Vietnam War and end of colonialism in Vietnam. | Image by Malcolm Browne; source and courtesy - iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com| Click for larger source image.

Quaking in their jack-boots

The Chinese regime, which so easily managed Tienanmen Square protests; engaged in stare-wrestling with the world’s super-power, USA, is afraid of 11 dead monks from Tibet.

What power do these monks have – after being out of power for 50 years now?

The Chinese who have made pious noises about wanting to resolve border issues with India, cancelled talks with India because of an out-of-power monks.

Like the Dalai Lama.

one of the most senior Tibetan religious figures—a young man who is likely to step into the shoes of the Dalai Lama as de facto religious leader of the Tibetan people—this week called on Tibetans to end a string of spectacular acts of self-immolation in protest against Chinese rule.

In the statement he issued in India, where he’s lived in exile ever since his dramatic escape from Tibet a dozen years ago, the youthful 17th Karmapa praised the “pure motivation” of the Buddhist devotees who set themselves on fire, saying “these desperate acts… are a cry against the injustice and repression under which they live.” However, in the first such statement from a senior Tibetan religious figure, the Karmapa went on to request that Tibetans “preserve their lives and find other, constructive ways to work for the cause of Tibet… We Tibetans are few in number, so every Tibetan life is of value to the cause of Tibet.”

The fact that the 17th Karmapa is recognized by both Tibetan exiles and by Beijing makes him a powerful figure. When the Dalai Lama dies, the Karmapa is likely to take the Dalai Lama’s place as the most influential adult spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.

So far this year, 11 Tibetan Buddhist monks, former monks, and nuns have set themselves on fire in Tibetan communities of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, in acts of protest against official Chinese repression. In a 12th case, a man dressed in monk’s robes and draped in a Tibetan flag reportedly chanted “Long live Tibet” before setting himself on fire Thursday in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, which shares a long border with Tibet.

while suicides are rare among Tibetans, the recent self-immolations evoke a similar phenomenon during the 1960s, triggered by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire and burned to death in a Saigon intersection to protest the anti-Buddhist policies of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem administration—a fiery act that was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. (via Tibetan Leaders Struggle to Cope With Spate of Self-Immolations – The Daily Beast).

Chants and Idols?

What made Buddhism so powerful in these lands?

Buddha could not have gained so may followers with trite messages like follow-the-path-of-ahimsa, life-is-full-of-misery, respect-life. Obscure ideas (at least now) like Nirvana, dukkha, et al, could not have been the reason.

People don’t change so much for so little! Or resist change so much when confronted by the sword!

This was obviously not because Buddha’s statues were prettier than the statues of previous deities. If that, anyway, was the reason, the statues of previous divinities could have been prettified.

Or because Buddhist chants sounded better.

Threats and Fears

The real story!

Back then, Buddhism ended Confucian governance – and brought भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra to these oppressed lands.

Will history repeat itself? Is that the fear of the Chinese leaders?


What do good Christians do? War, Kill, Death, Bomb, Fire

November 15, 2011 2 comments

Who is a good Christian? Ann Coulter thinks it is someone who can bomb, kill, deal in death and destruction, wage war – and be cool about it.

It was no different. Genocide, slavery, colonialism, WWI, WWII, Vietnam War, Iraq War. 9/11 was an excuse for another round of blood letting.(Cartoon by By Kirk Walters, in Toledo Blade on 9/9/2011 12:00:00 AM; Image source and courtesy -  caglecartoons.com). Click for larger image.

It was no different. Genocide, slavery, colonialism, WWI, WWII, Vietnam War, Iraq War. 9/11 was an excuse for another round of blood letting.(Cartoon by By Kirk Walters, in Toledo Blade on 9/9/2011 12:00:00 AM; Image source and courtesy - caglecartoons.com). Click for larger image.

That evening, CNN reported that bombs were dropping in Afghanistan — and then updated the report to say they weren’t our bombs.

They should have been ours. I want them to be ours.

This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olson.

We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an “international coalition.” We don’t need a study on “terrorism.” We certainly didn’t need a congressional resolution condemning the attack this week.

The nation has been invaded by a fanatical, murderous cult. And we welcome them. We are so good and so pure we would never engage in discriminatory racial or “religious” profiling.

People who want our country destroyed live here, work for our airlines, and are submitted to the exact same airport shakedown as a lumberman from Idaho. This would be like having the Wehrmacht immigrate to America and work for our airlines during World War II. Except the Wehrmacht was not so bloodthirsty.

“All of our lives” don’t need to change, as they keep prattling on TV. Every single time there is a terrorist attack — or a plane crashes because of pilot error — Americans allow their rights to be contracted for no purpose whatsoever.

(Did those fabulous security procedures stop a single hijacker anyplace in America that day?)

Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war. (via Ann Coulter on Barbara Olson on National Review Online).

Don’t worry … be happy

Ann Coulter is suggesting that USA must deal out War, Kill, Death, Bomb, Fire, Destruction to Muslim countries – without worrying who is getting killed.

Finally that is what happened.

‘Bad’ Muslims to ‘Good’ Christians

She is also suggesting that Muslims must be made into ‘good’ Christians – like she is. And then ‘bad’ Muslims like ‘good’ Christians will also indulge in War, Kill, Death, Bomb, Fire.

Since I am from a backward country, maybe I cannot see the ‘difference between ‘bad’ Muslims like Taimur Lenq, Mahmud Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Nadir Shah et al – and ‘good’ Christians like Churchill, Hitler, the Abbot of Citeaux, etc.

From the loony bin?

Ann Coulter is not a fringe writer – or non-representative. This post exposes the moral and ethical emptiness of the West.

This is such a delicious piece of low-writing. Full of venom, hate, anger, malice – and zero reason, logic. In fact, Ann Coulter does not have two thought to rub together.

Even if her life depended on it.


War and crimes

After killing 20 lakhs of Viets, America cannot gloss over these deaths.

After the French had dug their own grave, the US arrived to impose a new form of colonialism in Asia again. (Cartoon by Bill Sanders.). Click for a larger image.

After the French had dug their own grave, the US arrived to impose a new form of colonialism in Asia again. (Cartoon by Bill Sanders.). Click for a larger image.

War gone bad

1971, it was clear that the war in Vietnam was over. America was trying to find ways out of the mess.

America

oozed into Vietnam, starting with President Harry Truman’s decision to subsidize the French in their futile effort to retrieve their Asian colony. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy deepened our involvement, reiterating the “domino theory,” the dubious notion that the collapse of Vietnam would spark a global wave of communist triumphs. As he escalated the commitment, Lyndon Johnson cautioned, in his typically gaudy rhetoric, that defeat would compel us to retreat to the beaches of Waikiki; his aides, whether or not they believed it, dutifully echoed the party line. Only afterward did Robert S. McNamara, the former Defense Secretary and a pivotal architect of the war, confess that “we were wrong, terribly wrong”–cold comfort for the families of the 60,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Senator Max W. Cleland of Georgia, a paraplegic veteran, said McNamara’s book should have been titled Sorry ‘Bout That. (via Lost Inside the Machine – TIME).

The maya machine

American handling of the post-Vietnam events were the usual propaganda tricks.

Take the above post – written some 30 years after the war ended, and 40 years, after the war became serious. Yet it counts the 60,000 Americans killed. And conveniently glosses over the 20 lakhs Vietnamese killed.

Or for instance, the infamous My Lai massacre. March 16, 1968 more than 300 elderly, women and children killed. My Lai happened in wake of a desperate US, struggling in Vietnam and resorting in massacres. After My Lai massacre, came to light, a prolonged drama of justice of played out.

The Great Game

From 1969 to 1974. Finally, all the perpetrators went scot-free – except the commander, Lt. William Calley, who served a token 3 or so years in prison – instead of the original sentence of 20 years. Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for uncovering the My Lai massacre and his brave reporting. After the outrage blew over, Lt. Calley too was pardoned. The Vietnamese ended with hundreds killed at My Lai. America has made a show of being a civilized society.

There are two crimes in this war. America had no business to impose this war in the Viets. After killing 20 lakhs of Viets, America cannot gloss over these deaths.

There was no reason for the Americans to be in Vietnam – except to set up Pax Americana, for which these American soldiers died. What about the Viets?

Why did 20 lakhs of them have to die.


Zombies versus churails

Could you have an equally successful version with churails and djinns? Perhaps, but Grahame-Smith’s success is also because of the public fascination with zombies, vampires and werewolves. Werewolves come from the Old Norse vargulf, and were feared as actual threats several centuries ago. Zombies originated in Haiti, but the idea of revenants—the walking dead—was very much part of Old English folklore. Vampires, especially the Transylvanian kind, reached the peak of their popularity in the 18th century.

True zombies, vampires and werewolves have not been feared for at least two centuries. But their place in the popular imagination has been maintained by horror movies and novels as well as several generations of gamers. Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series elevated the classic vampire love story to interspecies romance, with a werewolf vying for the hand of the beautiful Bella. (via Nilanjana S Roy: Zombies versus churails).

Why are Indians so bad at horror films …

Why does the largest film production culture, i.e. India not produce Jaws, Jurassic Park (animals as malevolent monsters; justifying the extermination of huge swathes of wild life, “good that we have exterminated them). Where is the Indian Dracula or Frankenstein? In all its 25 major languages and more than 500 plus dialects, Indians don’t have a national ‘monster’ culture? The writer of this column writes, almost complainingly, how

But few have carried on the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote some of the most chilling ghost stories of all time—Khudito Pashan (The Hungry Stones) being perhaps the best of them. It’s not for lack of talent—for instance, Tarun Tejpal and Ravi Shankar Etteth have both played around with the ghost story. Ravi Shankar wrote at least one classic, featuring a busload of highly unusual passengers in war-ravaged Kashmir. In 1914, a Mr S Mukerji compiled a set of Indian ghost stories

The Ramsay family tried keeping the ‘horror’ flag flying. But most of their ‘horror’ films finally turned out to be romantic comedies – with a token presence of the ‘horror’ element.

The Indic spread

Other Indian themes have crossed languages, geographies, cultures – and spread all over the world. Witness the spread of Ramayana or how Sanskrit defined most languages of the world. After more than 1000 years of aggression, the Desert Bloc has only half the world as its adherents – though they have 80% of the world’s geography. The Indic belief systems still accounts for half the world’s population.

Why indeed does India have a scarcity of ‘monsters’. Even Indian asuras are not really monsters or devils! This columnist speculates that

perhaps something of the belief that ghost stories are for the masses, not for the purveyors of high literature, has rubbed off on to our authors. That, given India’s rich heritage of dakinis, betaals, nishibhoots and other things that go bump in the night, is a sad mistake.

To understand this better, let us look at the world’s most fertile ground for ‘monsters’ …

Medieval – Renaissance Europe

16th century Europe – specifically, Spain and Portugal. The last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. The Christian standard was flying high. The Papal Bull divided the Earth (for the Europeans) between Spain and Portugal. White Christian rulers of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, set historic standards in persecution and extortion. More than a million Jews were killed, crucified, burnt alive; their properties confiscated and distributed. Columbus returned to enslave the American Natives – and subsequently, work them to death.

New chapters in bloodshed were being written by conquistadors like Vasco Nunez De Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto, Hernando Cortez, et al. Not to forget the search for El Dorado led by, “above all, that prince of monsters Lope de Aquirre, colour the pages with the darkest hues of bloody emprise.” In South American memory, Francisco de Carvajal, the “demon of the Andes” remains alive. These real-life monsters set new standards in brutality, slavery and genocide.

Europe in the sixteenth century was “obsessed with questions of language, and especially so in Spain and its recently conquered American Empire (emphasis mine). This was driven by

what Marshal McLuhan called “the hypertrophy of the unconscious,” a phenomenon he associated with periods of revolution in media technology: the advent of print in the 16th century created a great need for sensational materials to be broadcast, and this need caused ideas that formerly had been only lurking in the dark recesses of men’s minds to come floating to the surface.

One of the great bestsellers of the 16th century was the Histoires prodigieuses of Pierre Boaistuau (Paris, 1560), a sort of Renaissance Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not containing marvelous tales on everything … Seventeen of the Histoires forty tales are about monsters, a fact that may explain why the book was republished anywhere from ten to twenty two times and translated into Dutch, Spanish and English. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Spanish literature of the Renaissance

From this hotbed of ferment, a representative of this period was Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681), the Spanish writer. Growing up in a Spain, a 100 years after the Conquistadors, benefiting from the twin advantages of fresh memory and hindsight “a century of Janus, facing backward, towards the rise of the Spanish Empire … and forward, toward its decline.” His more than a 100 plays and writings represent 17th century Spain, significantly – and even Europe.

There is probably no word that is more characteristic of Calderon de la Barca’s art than monstruo, “monster.” Rare is the play in which the word does not appear several times … (from Celestina’s brood By Roberto González Echevarría).

Calderon’s play about Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire builder, showed her in a monster mode – her hybrid character the most masculine modes and the most feminine, a monster of destruction and creation”. And Calderon was not alone. The fertile growth of monsters gave birth to a new study – teratology, the study of monsters.

“Monster lore truly becomes “popular culture” only with the Renaissance … Fresh works on the subject of teratology are written by Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen. The foreruuner of the modern newspaper, the broadside were bought at street corners and at fairs by the barely literate masses. The great reformers Luther and Melanchthon used the broadside medium to popularize their propagandistic and anti-Catholic versions of two of the most famous monsters of the Renaissance, the Monk-calf of Freiburg and the Pope-ass of Rome. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Some of Calderon’s plays dealt with the proselytization of the Native Americans – like his play, La Aurora En Copacabana (Dawn in the Copacabana), described as a play about “the conquest and conversion of the Indians in Peru”

The success of the conquest, therefore, is attributed to (Christian) faith which is valued as mans greatest gift to the world … Thus (Christian) conquest becomes a form of colonisation with the purpose of imposing religion and culture on a land “que habitan inhumanos” (512) and is in need of redemption and education. Finally, the play tries to harmonise irreconcilable contradictions which lie at the bottom of colonial discourse. (texts in brackets and italics mine).

With this idea, must be seen something important. That is the important element of “the escape of the monster.” In the … Monster Theory, Joel Cohen has remarked that the monster always escapes. Now combine the three elements – the newly acquired colonies of America, the proselytization (or otheriwse, the genocide) and the escape of the monster. These were the ‘monsters’ of colonialism.

A very interesting play by Calderon was La vida es sueño (Life is a dream). It tells the story of Segismundo, the Prince Of Poland, who was destined to be a monster. To forestall the prophecy, Segismundo was imprisoned by his father from the time of his birth. In adulthood, released from prison to test the prediction, Segismundo fulfills the prophecy. As a analyst of Calderon’s work summarizes,

Affirming a “better reality,” Segismundo’s message speaks as well to all of Europe: the “new European man” is the real monster. (from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

200 years after Calderon, HG Wells, in the The Island of Doctor Moreau, foretold Joseph Menegle’s experiments rather well.

Onshore genocide – The Roma Gypsies

Apart from the Jewish persecution, less known is the the persecution of the Roma Gypsy, which continues till date. In Europe, kidnapping children was considered legal for most of 1500AD-1750AD. On one condition – you had to kidnap Roma Gypsy children! More than 25,000 children kidnapped. No problem. Everybody sleeps peacefully at night. Switzerland was doing this till 1973!

Roughly, between 1500 to 1750, it was legal in Europe to hunt human beings. Yes! Just like hunting for deer in India, or hunting buffalo in Africa or fox-hunting in Britain. Yes! You could hunt human beings. As long as the humans you hunted were Roma Gypsies. In Europe you could be hung to death if you committed the crime of being born – between 1500AD-1750AD! Born as a Roma Gypsy!

Europeans, in the their age of Enlightenment and Renaissance, (1500-1750) could just pick up human slaves – yes, own them like cattle and furniture, if you found one! As long as they were Roma Gypsies. Later you could also sell them for profit!

Ship owners and captains in Europe’s Golden age, (1500-1750) could arrange galley slaves for free. No wages, no salary. You just had to feed them. Use them, abuse them, flog them, kill them, drown them. You could do anything – as long as they were Roma Gypsies.

What set off the Roma Gypsy Genocide

In 1420, a 60 year old man, blind in one eye took charge – and took on the might of the Roman Church and Roman Emperors.

Jan Zizka.

Over the next 12 months, he became completely blind. In the next 15 years, Zizka (and other Czech generals) defeated, many times, the combined armies of Germany, The Roman Church and others. His military strategy was studied for the next 500 years. Thereafter, the myth of military might of the Church was broken forever.

Jan Zizka allied himself with the Taborites (the radical Hussite wing). Zizka made Tábor in Bohemia into an armored and mobile fortress – the Wagenburgs.

Interestingly, a 100 years after the Hussite Wars, the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies began in full earnest. And during WW2, the Vatican joined with the Nazi collaborators, the Ustashe,  to extort gold and the genocide against the Roma Gyspises.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Coming back …

Who were the major users of the wagons in Europe then (and now?) Answer – The Roma Gypsies.

Who were the people who could pose spiritual and ecclesiastical questions to the Vatican? Answer – The Gypsies, with their Indian heritage, were not not new to spiritual dialectics (contests, discourse and debates). For instance, Mani, and his adherents, an Indic teacher of Buddhist thought, known to Christians as Manichean thought, were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. European minds were occupied with the questions raised by the Hussite reformers.

Some think they (the Waldensians) had held them for centuries; some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view, we are forced back on the further question: Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites?

Who were the people who could help the persecuted Waldensians, the Bogomils, the Cathars to escape persecution and spread out across the Europe? Answer – The Roma Gypsies – in their wagons. The same Gypsies, had earlier pioneered the Troubadour culture in the Provence Region, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade by the Vatican.

Prokop Coat Of ArmsProkop Coat Of Arms

And who was the King of the Taborites? Answer – An entire clan of leaders who called themselves as Prokop (The Shaven /Bald; The Little and The Great) were the military leaders of the Taborites.

The word and name Prokop have no meaning in any European language – except in Sanskrit, where it means vengeance, retribution, violent justice.

Mythology as History

Jan Hus initiated the Reformation in the Vatican Church. It was Jan Zizka who broke the back of Papal authority. On the back of these Czech successes, was laid the foundation of 95 Theses by Martin Luther in 1517. The British break (1533-34) with the Holy Roman Church happened due to favors by the Papal office to the Iberian Empires – in matters of trade and colonial expansion, and the impediments to divorce of Henry-VIII at the behest of the Spanish rulers.

Today, the Germans and the British are loath to be reminded about the Czech Church Reform initiatives and the defeats at the hands of the Poles and Czechs. Western historiography about the Enlightenment and Renaissance, in Britain, France and Germany, leading to the reformation is ‘mythology as history’.

Of course, the role of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Empire in the entire Czech saga is also worth re-examining. Were the Hussite Wars, a proxy war waged by the Eastern Church against the Vatican?

Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

In the 19th century came the monster story was dubbed as Gothic – and this form of story-telling matured as a craft.

A significant array of Gothic writers emerged from Ireland (from Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde to the contemporary writer Patrick McGrath), in a colonial situation where a Protestant minority was the colonial occupier. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851), wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley started writing Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, at the age of 18, and completed it one year later. First published in London, anonymously, in 1818 by small London publishing house of Harding, Mavor & Jones – after previous rejections by bigger publishers like Charles Ollier (Percy Bysshe Shelley’s publisher), and John Murray (by Byron’s publisher). The writer’s name started appearing from the second edition of 1823 onwards. The interesting aspect, lost in popular usge, is that the monster is not named – and Frankenstein was the scientist, who brought the monster to life.

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde was first published. This explored how ‘normal’ (Dr.Jekyll) human beings could become ‘evil’ (Mr.Hyde).

And in 1887, Bram Stoker, an Irish writer published his Dracula. The character of Dracula is based on Emperor Sigismund and his Order of the Dragon, who waged war against the Hussites – led by Jan Zizka. Infamous for his betrayal of Jan Hus, he sparked of the Hussite Wars, in which the Taborites (the Roma Gypsies) used wagons and gun powder for the first time in Europe. He founded a secret sect,  the “Dracul” called the Order of the Dragon.

Of course, these three are the most famous – but not the only ones. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire was another monster book of its time. An associate of Mary Shelley, John Polidori created the character of the “The Vampyre” in 1819 – on which possibly Dracula was based.

Most significantly, in 1896, was HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, which presaged Joseph Mengele – when Joseph Mengele had not even started on his higher education. A good 50 years before Joseph Mengele’s experiments were discovered by a shocked world.

The wellspring of these works is H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In this 1896 novel, a vivisectionist attempts to transform animals into men until the misshapen creatures revert and kill him, the forces of nature overcoming man’s civilizing artifices. From The Boys From Brazil (Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, alive and well and cloning Hitlers at a secret lab in the Brazilian Amazon) to Jurassic Park (Richard Attenborough alive and well and cloning velociraptors), Wells’ basic formula has become familiar: an island; a Frankensteinian experiment; a Faustian scientist; something gone terribly, terribly wrong. (from Requiem for the Mad Scientist

From the 1700-1800, while Spain was in decline, for about a 100 years, Western literary field did not see too much action on the monster front. The main action was in Haiti, where zombies, the ex-murderers, the living dead became a part of the voodoo cult.

The late Victorian era was one of the most expansive phases of the empire. Britain annexed some thirty-nine separate areas around the world between 1870-1900, in competition with newly aggressive America in the Pacific or the European powers in the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ after the continent was divided up at the Berlin conference of 1885. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

The last of the true great monster in popular culture came from the East. Soon after WW2, as tales of Japanese atrocities started coming out and as American atrocities in Vietnam started, Godzilla came out of Japan. But a different pressure head was building up, which gave rise to a new genre – detective fiction.

Euro-Pessimism

Between 1800-1950, Western powers killed (directly or otherwise) more than 50 million people in America (the Native Americans), Africa (the Native Africans), Asia (Indians, Chinese, Arabs). This led to a situation that every other person in the West had participated in murder or massacre – unlike the few Conquistadors. Western ambiguity towards Soviet Russia on one side, Hitler on the other was itself a concern. To that add, Gandhiji’s resolute opposition to colonialism and you have a inflammable moral situation.

The deluge of blood and murder caused moral anxiety and was a matter of ethical dilemma amongst common folks. The pressure valve for this was popular fiction. Identifying murderers became a form of proxy, vicarious entertainment for ordinary folks. Enter the super detectives, who pick out the murderer from a room full of ordinary people. Enter detectives like Auguste Dupin, of ‘The Purloined Letter‘ fame, who “investigates an apparently motiveless and unsolvable double murder in the Rue Morgue.”

Murder in Popular Image

The racist imagery in Tintin.

The 'racist' imagery in Tintin.

A trend started by Edgar Allan Poe, whose first detective novel, Murders In Rue Morgue (1841) soon became an avalanche. Writers like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple solving murders happening by the second), Georges Simenon (and his Inspector Maigret investigating brutal crimes), Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn), GK Chesterton (Father Brown), Raymond Chandler (Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe) dealt with murder. Alfred Hitchcock made horror thrillers in similar themes.

In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock series made its debut. Many of Conan Doyle’s characters came from the colonies. Many victims lived in isolated communities. Past (mis)deeds caught up. Crime, murder and malevolence hung in the air like thick smoke. Some of the stories addressed the colour prejudice. The status of England as a super-power was apparent. The intrigue and bloodshed in the India was palpable in stories like the The Sign of Four at the Pondicherry Lodge.

Tintin in Congo

Tintin in Congo

Agatha Christie’s book, filmed as Ten Little Indians, based on the book, initially released (the book) in Britain as Ten Little Niggers (later renamed as Then There None) gives the game away. Agatha Christie probably unconsciously verbalized the White desire to ensure that there should be none of the Red Indians left to tell the tale. The overt racism in Herge’s ‘Tintin in Congo’ made the world sit-up and note the pervasiveness of racism in detective fiction.

Media and academia

Jerome Delamater, Ruth Prigozy, in an essay compilation, ‘Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction’, observe that Jane Marple, along with Hercule “Poirot becomes an equal opportunity detective who really believes that anyone might commit murder”. Dismissing the jaundiced view of human nature,” the writers of this book, while commenting about the detective fiction genre, do not mention slavery at all – and mention colonialism and racism once each.

One writer, Franco Moretti did half the job in book Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms By Franco Moretti. He writes,

“The perfect crime – the nightmare of detective fiction – is the feature-less, deindividualized crime that anyone could have committed because at this point everyone is the same.” He further writes,“Yet, if we turn to Agatha Christie, the situation is reversed.Her hundred-odd books have only one message: the criminal can be anyone …”

Detective FictionIn his entire book he does not use the words like slavery, racism, genocide, bigotry even once. The 19th century, which was based on Western bigotry, White racism, African slavery, and assorted genocides is unrecognised in Moretti’s books.

Running or hiding? Or it a case of feeling squeamish? Perhaps, a case of queasy stomach, Franco?

Another book, The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, by Ray Broadus Browne, Lawrence A. Kreiser does a better job. This book examines, the detective fiction genre, with some references to slavery and child prostitution.

How was this explained away

As the monsters increased, both in real life and literature, rationalizations were required. A person no less than Immanuel Kant, was pressed into service to deconstruct the ‘monster’, re-invent it and give it a positive spin.

The monster taken up by Kant in an aesthetic sense to refer to those things that exceed representation considers that the monstrous describes an entity whose life force is greater than the matter in which in which it is contained. Thus rather than something that malfunctions during the course of its production, monstrosity is associated during romanticism with “over-exuberant living matter” that extends itself beyond its natural borders in order to affect a much wider sphere. ((from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

In the twentieth century, Kant’s hypothesis finds an echo when Lord Randolph William Churchill, the ‘Bulldog’ declared

I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race has come in and taken their place. (from Minorities, peoples, and self-determination By Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila Ghanea, Alexandra Xanthaki, Patrick Thornberry)

In another instance, Churchill wrote how superior’ Arabs, imposed on the ‘inferior’ negroes.

The stronger race imposed its customs and language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the facial appearance … (from The River War By Winston Churchill).

The Mystery of the Dying Detective

After de-colonisation, as mass murder went underground, the detective-murder mystery books genre faded. This category was replaced by a new theme – the axis of Corporation-Government-International Conspiracy.

The new category of popular fiction are represented by Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, et al. More and more contrived, each conspiracy theory writer has been ‘inspired’ by real life incidents.

While Ludlum’s international-conspiracy-plot-CIA-FBI-KGB series have worn thin, the spookiness of Le Carre’s Absolute Friends and Constant Gardner still work as novels representing the West.

Western Twins – Anxiety and Paranoia

To develop this understanding further, there are two classes of films that I wish to draw attention to.

Malignant Nature

Jaws (the shark that eats humans), Jurassic Park (mad scientists, conspiring technicians let loose man eating dinos) Gremlins and Poltergiest (things that go bump in the night). This paranoid fear of nature (and natural laws) seems to be a result of the subterranean knowledge of the way in which ecological damage and pollution is happening. These films produced /directed by Steven Spielberg (who is incomparable because as Time Magazine says, “No one else has put together a more popular body of work”)

Illegal AliensVindictive Humans

The other is the thinly disguised hate and prejudice films against the poor and the victimised. ‘Aliens’ needs just one small change for the films idea to become clear. Instead of LV-426, Nostromo the space ship, receives a distress call from some country in South America or Africa (or India, if you prefer). The meaning is clear when you see the movie while conscious of the fact that alien is is the word the US Government uses for people from other countries.

As for the Indian churails

Coming to India, a writer notes how

Francesca Orsini identifies the detective  novel as one of the genres that ‘was brought into India ‘ready-made’ without the intellectual and historical substratus that had generated it in Europe’ This total lack of any indigenous roots, one could argue, makes detective  fiction a colonial imposition, and its adoption by Indian writers, clearly a case of copy-cat reproduction wherein ‘black-pens’ write ‘white-texts’ that have no identity of their own. (from Postcolonial postmortems – crime fiction from a transcultural perspective By Christine Matzke, Susanne Muehleisen, page 88).

How very true!

Ms.Christine and Susanne, you have hit the nail right in the centre of head! Your aim is truer than you imagine. Whatta shot! Though I dont know if you have hit the nail deep enough – deep into the heart of the darkness, which gave rise to these genres of Western ‘literature’.

The Indian churail (or pisach or djinni) faces similar problems as the Scandinavian myling or the Er Gui of China: they don’t translate well outside of their culture.

India may have had local incidents, where an oppressive zamindar may have created a market for horror stories and monsters – but without genocide, slavery and massacres to fall back on, popular imagination simply does not have the fodder to create ghouls and monsters.

And that is reason for Indian churails being rare – not lack of literary ability in Indians.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

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Robert McNamara and the Ghosts of Vietnam

February 8, 2009 Leave a comment
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread - McNamara and LBJ

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread - LBJ and McNamara

he was so impressed by the logic of statistics that he tried to calculate how many deaths it would take to bring North Vietnam to the bargaining table … (later) he wanted to know why his reckoning had been wrong, why the huge casualties that he had helped inflict had failed to break the will of the men in Hanoi …

His ruminations about this began at the Americans’ April meeting in Washington, where he, Cooper and General Vesser agreed that casualties did not seem to weigh heavily with North Vietnam …. “Was there any consideration of the human cost in Hanoi as they made these decisions?” McNamara asked. “Is the loss of life ever a factor?” He noted that while 58,000 Americans had been killed, the most authoritative estimate — in a September 1995 article by General Uoc — put the number of Vietnamese deaths at 3.6 million. “It’s equivalent to 27 million Americans!” McNamara exclaimed.

To explain this to himself, he remembered … There were some people to whom life was not the same as to us, he reasoned as he stood one evening in the hotel lobby. (via Robert McNamara and the Ghosts of Vietnam; ellipsis and brackets mine).

McNamara’s unique contribution to the Vietnam War was ‘body count’.

He was right. Only he could have killed an equivalent of 27 million Americans – for American neo-colonial objectives.

And still talk about the value of human life. With a straight face.

The Free Press?!

The Free Press?!

Colonialism was the same everywhere

February 26, 2008 Leave a comment

How Big Business and Big Government combine against the aam aadmi, the common man.

This book shows how French and British colonialism was just the same.

The same salt tax, the same Opium imports, the same killing of the local culture by colonial culture, the same replacement of traditional economy by a colonial financial system, the same exploitative landlord class, which impoverished the local people.

You could replace the French with the British and the Indian with the Viet.

The same type casting in Vietnam – “simplicity of Annamite, versus the suave sophistication of Saigonese or the ox-like toughness of the Tonkinese” like the colonial British did with Indians.

1975: Americans being evacuated from US embassy building after fall of Saigon. Picture credit not avaiable for now.  |  Click for image.

1975: Americans being evacuated from US embassy building after fall of Saigon. Picture credit not avaiable for now. | Click for image.

Same difference.

The colonial system has now been replaced by the Bretton Woods – and the Rest pay the West. Ho Chi Minh’s joke about British colonial rule being better than the French was just that – a joke. I dont believe that Ho Chi Minh saw grass being greener on the other side.


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