December- 2004- and here we are at the end of another year. I have been thinking about and dealing with allot at the end of the year.
I have been on the Buffalo list which is a poetry centered webserv for the past five years and many good things have happened to me since I was on the list- I met some great people including my publisher Geoffrey Gatza- but the list often degrades into attacks and this month I found myself arguing with folks about of all things the Crusades, the Reconquista of Spain, whether the Middle East really was Christian before the Islamic invasions and whether or not being against the cultural genocide of the Palestinians makes one an Anti Semite which is funny because according to geneticists Palestinians, Jews, Syrians and Lebanese are genetically identical and they are all Semites.
I find it intellectually dishonest to demonize the Christian West for all the true evil committed by our culture (the litany is well known) and to try to gloss over the true evil committed by other cultures who were figuring things out at the same time. A good example of this is a debate that arose about Islamic Spain. It is true the Islamic Spain was a great civilization, but it is also true that Christian Spain was an equally great civilization. These two visions fought for many years and the Christians won- and Islam lost.
On the other side of the Mediterranean another great civilization was extant, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. It is true that the Arabs saves allot of Classical culture but an equal amount was saved by the Byzantines. The Byzantines were the only "first world"Christian power from 476-1100 and their defeats of Zoroastrian Persia and then Islamic Arab states
meant that European culture developed the way it did. But Byzantium and the Christian Middle East was destroyed by the Arabs and Islam- the Christians lost and Islam won- this is history not morality.
The whole point of this is that to impose Postmodern and Modern morality on people living in 900 AD is silly. They dwelt in another moral world and to try to equate the Jewish Holocaust, the systematic, industrial murder of a group of people with the Crusades; a Medieval war between two different cultures where in some Jews were killed and Persecuted is at best intellectually dishonest.
Industrial killing is a Modern and Postmodern enterprise the litany
1) African Slave Trade 1500-1800 35 Million
2) Genocide of Native Americans 100 Million
1) The Armenians in Anatolia 1915-22 2 Million
2) The Greeks in Anatolia 1920-23 200,000
3) The Turks of Thrace 1923 50,000
4) The Ukrainians 1930-35 10 million
5) The Holocaust 20 million including 7 million Jews 10 Million Russians and 3 Million others.
6) The Pakistani/Indian Holocaust 5 million
7) The Indo Chinese Holocaust 10 million
8) Biafra 5 million
9) Rwanda 2 Million
10) Bosnia 500,000
And so many more have been killed and all of these people's stories are morally equal and morally important and all of their stories should be told.
Mixing Conflict and Growth
What makes cultures truly great is when Human greatness comes forth- it is true that when Christian, Jew and Muslim came together in Spain that a great civilization was created but the same mix created great civilization in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Palestine. I prefer to look at the magnificent that arose out of that mixing;
the Talmud, the New Testament, Koran, Sufiism, The Desert Fathers, Gregorian Chant, Algebra, Iznik Tiles, Icons and Mosaics, Saving Aristotle and more and more and more and all of this together in a great conflict makes humanity better and if it had not developed the way it did there would not be the world we now live in and conflict and racism and evil are part of that formation .
Can we build a new world wherein all of us give up nothing but learn and enjoy what we all have to give?
Can we agree to be different and love the difference?
Can we embrace all of our history and respect people who are different?
I look to Rumi and St Francis as guides. Rumi the son of a Christian and a Muslim who dwelt in Anatolia which was Christian, Jewish and Muslim and created newness- and greatness.
Or dear St Francesco who refused to exclude women, who refused to be part of the power structure who remained angry but obedient who preached before the sultan and gained his love an respect and respectful disagreement.
The Decline of America
You know I worry I just finished re-reading Warren Treadgold's History of the Byzantine State and Society which is the great Byzantine Empire history. The parallels I see with their history and our history are profound.
Byzantium was the successor state of ancient Rome and Greece. Just as the US is the successor state of the British Empire. Byzantium had a long war and conflict with Barbarians and then the Persians.
When it appeared that Byzantium had finally won the war, as it appeared for us after we defeated Communism, Byzantium was invaded and superceded by another culture, Islam.
This is where we are now as the USA. China will not invade the USA with an Army we are past that as a world but we are a weakened culture and economy.
We export raw materials and food to China, China makes value added products and we send our money to China- the Americans have bought into a shadow lie from our 'president' and while we run after shadows and 'terrorists' the Chinese continue to grow as a people and an economy. the free market is a lie it is only free for the powerful.
Remember after Heraclius won the war against the Persians a new people arose and that is where we are today as a people, as Americans. The war on Terrorism is a lie- the real war is for which vision of the world will predominate and the future is not Europe's or America's it is China.
Is our future like China's;
one where people are worked to death?
Where the people have no rights?
Where lower costs mean the destruction of standards of living?
Where selfishness and self interest are the only morality?
I think this is the world we are entering.
Poets need to be voices in the wilderness- as poets we possess very different visions but they are all reflective- not commercial. The problem with our world is that people dont matter- art is commercialized and turned into money rather than a way to be prophetic. In the end Poets have a chance because of the nature of our artform to be voices against what is happening. Poets need to say to the society in which we live, ENOUGH- the world is not just commerical it is more and
pain and suffering for profit and ease are not acceptable. In the end we need to challenge the society we are creating- one in which few are very rich and most are not, George Bush is not the problem- the Global Industrial Complex is the problem, Bush is their pawn.
Sure we need to fight terrorism, but perhaps if we had a little less injustice- a little less selfishness- a little less evil perpetrated but amoral US corporations and a profoundly selfish Western World (Europe, USA, and Japan) perhaps there would be less interest in terrorists and terrorism?