Jacques Henri Lartigue - "Florette dans le Morgan. Provence, mai," 1954:
Another reason to like the Kurds:
One of the smallest and oldest religions in the world is experiencing a revival in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The religion has deep Kurdish roots – it was founded by Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, who was born in the Kurdish part of Iran and the religion’s sacred book, the Avesta, was written in an ancient language from which the Kurdish language derives. However this century it is estimated that there are only around 190,000 believers in the world – as Islam became the dominant religion in the region during the 7th century, Zoroastrianism more or less disappeared.
Until – quite possibly – now. For the first time in over a thousand years, locals in a rural part of Sulaymaniyah province conducted an ancient ceremony on May 1, whereby followers put on a special belt that signifies they are ready to serve the religion and observe its tenets. It would be akin to a baptism in the Christian faith.
The newly pledged Zoroastrians have said that they will organise similar ceremonies elsewhere in Iraqi Kurdistan and they have also asked permission to build up to 12 temples inside the region, which has its own borders, military and Parliament. Zoroastrians are also visiting government departments in Iraqi Kurdistan and they have asked that Zoroastrianism be acknowledged as a religion officially. They even have their own anthem and many locals are attending Zoroastrian events and responding to Zoroastrian organisations and pages on social media.
Although as yet there are no official numbers as to how many Kurdish locals are actually turning to this religion, there is certainly a lot of discussion about it. And those who are already Zoroastrians believe that as soon as locals learn more about the religion, their numbers will increase. They also seem to selling the idea of Zoroastrianism by saying that it is somehow “more Kurdish” then other religions – certainly an attractive idea in an area where many locals care more about their ethnic identity than religious divisions.
As one believer, Dara Aziz, said: “I really hope our temples will open soon so that we can return to our authentic religion”.
Now, if they could somehow spark a revival in Zoroastrianism's original homeland, Persia (Iran)....
Hisham Melhem, at Al Arabiya, on the diminished West:
This week the turbaned president of Iran Hassan Rowhani, a man steeped in Persia’s history and proud of its imperial legacy, visited Rome, Paris and Berlin. He sought new beginnings with the West, now that Iran has come out of the cold following its nuclear agreement with the P5+1 countries.
The man from the East knew that the multicultural and very accommodating West is more than eager to do business with a resurgent Persia, and contracts worth tens of billions of dollars were signed and sealed, but not over toasts at lavish banquets held in opulent halls with their exquisite paintings of voluptuous odalisques and nude statutes of Greek and Roman Goddesses, warriors and Emperors.
It was determined by the anxious powers that be in Rome that the immensely rich and beautiful cultural inheritance of the glorious Roman Empire represented by marble statutes of nude Deities and Emperors should be covered up, and that alcohol should not be served in the presence of Rowhani so that not to offend the (“Muslim”?) sensibilities of the visitor from Iran.
That brazen act of self-emasculation and obeisance took place at the Capitoline Museum, probably Rome’s richest repository of high art. It was the most abject act of self-negation and cultural surrender in recent times committed by a Western state that has inherited the artistic and cultural heritage of the greatest Empire in human history.
The meek Italian behavior symbolizes the diminishing power of the West, particularly western Europe in the face of bold challenges from the marauders of the apocalyptic ISIS, and the practitioners of hard power like Russian President Vladimir Putin whether in the Ukraine or in Syria, and the deferential treatment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the very power behind killer Shiite sectarian organizations in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq....
The only hopeful sign in this sordid tale was the outrage it has created among Italians, who took to social media to mock and denounce the bankruptcy of their government. Giuseppe Musmarra, a political analyst, wrote: “Was there really a need for this humiliation?”
He expressed the views of many distressed Italians when he said: “Covering up the statues in the Capitoline Museum is to symbolically renounce our art and our culture and to abdicate every principle of secularism. It is the capitulation of a country. One can dialog, and one must, but it needs to be done with dignity.”
Are the principles of secularism and liberalism of Western visitors to Iran (and to other very conservative majority Muslim countries) usually respected? Certainly not. That kind of phony Italian “respect” accorded to President Rowhani reminds me of the fake solidarity some naïve western women display when they wear a hijab to symbolize their support and affinity with Muslim women.
Do these Western women know that some Muslim women are harshly persecuted in some Muslim countries if they resist wearing hijab or if the way they wear it is not seen by the custodians of religious purity as sufficiently pious.
To make matters worse, Pope Francis met with Rowhani for 40 minutes at the Vatican, during which the Iranian President asked the Pontiff to pray for him. It will take more than prayers to cleanse the numerous sins of the President and the state of Iran. The Pope ostensibly wanted to discuss “peace” with Rowhani and the plight of Christian communities in the Levant and Mesopotamia; I wonder if he asked him to what extent Iran’s military intervention is responsible for the death or exodus of Christian Syrians....
Western civilization is not about to fall, and the Barbarians are not about to breach the ramparts, but the Italian government this week reminded us that even the mighty Roman Empire declined for a long time before it collapsed in a whimper.
Big Bill Broonzy , live, 1956:
A classic Fifties coffee bar scene - cellar, cigarettes, candles - with the Greenwich Village vibe enhanced by that woman in the audience (0:23 and throughout) who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Bob Dylan. On a tour of Europe Broonzy "met and fell in love with a Dutch girl, Pim van Isveldt", so maybe that's her.
Broonzy was perhaps the best known of those early blues artists who went on in later life to make a career in the folk scene, steering away from the gritty urban blues and heading for the beatnik coffee houses:
In 1949, Broonzy became part of a touring folk music revue formed by Win Stracke called I Come for to Sing, which also included Studs Terkel and Lawrence Lane. Terkel called him the key figure in this group. The revue had some success thanks to the emerging folk revival movement. When the revue played Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Broonzy met a local couple, Prof. Leonard and Lillian Feinberg, who would find him a custodial job at ISU when a doctor ordered Bill to leave the road for his health later in 1949. He remained in Ames until 1951, then resumed touring.
After returning, the exposure from I Come For to Sing made it possible for Broonzy to tour Europe in 1951. Here Bill was greeted with standing ovations and critical praise wherever he played. The tour marked a turning point in his fortunes, and when he returned to the United States he was a featured act with many prominent folk artists such as Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. From 1953 on his financial position became more secure and he was able to live quite well on his music earnings. Broonzy returned to his solo folk-blues roots, and travelled and recorded extensively. Broonzy's numerous performances during the 1950s in British folk and jazz clubs were a significant influence on British audiences' understanding of the blues, and significantly bolstered the nascent British folk revival and early blues scene. Many British musicians on the folk scene, such as Bert Jansch, cited him as an important influence. John Lennon of The Beatles also cites Broonzy as an early, important influence.
David Bernstein lists six examples of "Israel Derangement Syndrome". The second concerns Oberlin, where the activities of BDS and pro-Palestinian activists are reportedly raising concerns about the anti-Semitic climate in the college. He links to a post by William Jacobson, which gives more detail:
In the winter of 2013, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay flyers were posted around campus, leading to a cancelling of classes and college-wide teach-ins and meetings. The campus hysteria was such that a student claimed to see someone in a Klan robe walking on campus at night.
It was national news. But it turned out that the posters were placed by a progressive white student seeking to troll the community into discussing racism, and the person in a Klan robe likely was just a student walking wrapped in a blanket to provide warmth from the cold. The anti-Semitic postings, that included a swastika in place of a Jewish star on the Israeli flag, received relatively little focus.
No matter, the racism hoax stirred Oberlin into action. Not to look at what it is that causes a progressive white student to feel the need to create the appearance of racism so the community can talk about racism. Or what causes a progressive student to use a flyer from a known anti-Semitic website (“Jew Watch”) as a means of criticizing Israel.
Instead, the college used the incident as an opportunity to impose even more aggressive multi-cultural education requirements on students, faculty and staff.
That same spring, the Oberlin student government became one of the first to pass an anti-Israel divestment resolution brought by Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine. (The Board of Trustees later rejected the resolution.)
SFP’s agenda includes “intersectionality,” discussed above, in which Israel is tied to unrelated problems of non-whites in the United States in order to build an anti-Israel coalition. Co-opting the Black Lives Matter and other movements is the key focus of the boycott movement in the U.S. One example at Oberlin was how SFP compared Israel’s security barrier (what SFP calls the Apartheid Wall) to the wall on the U.S.-Mexican border in order to portray Israel as anti-Hispanic. Another event tied Israel to Ferguson and the Michael Brown shooting.
That group is very active on campus sponsoring a continuous series of events meant to portray Israel as a pariah and Apartheid state.
The list goes on. But perhaps the most astonishing part comes when Jacobson cites a Facebook post by a recent alumna:
I don’t want to make it seem like i hated my time at oberlin. it was a mixed bag and i got a great education and was blessed to learn from amazing professors. But i think being out of that environment has given me a chance to breathe and process everything that i learned/ encountered/ unlearned at oberlin. i learned about the historical context of anti black racism and its current manifestations and through that learning process was able to better frame and identify my own community’s struggle. However i quickly learned that process was to be kept personal and did not blend into the campus atmosphere or the collective fight for justice at oberlin. Because at oberlin, and indeed in the US overall, Jews are viewed as white and privileged (sometimes even above the avg white privilege, since yaknow, were all superrich and stuff) therefore our struggle does not intersect with other forms of racism and bigotry and ignorance that are so tenaciously fought against on campus. As a part of my processing and letting go of the pain I experienced, I will list a few memorable antisemitic moments/incidents here-
Obies feel free to read. But this is actually intended for all my friends and family outside of that circle…
1. The multiple times the Holocaust was referred to as “white on white crime” by my POC peers and hip white Jewish peers, (erasing the fact that ashkenazi jews were NOT seen as white and were being killed in the name of eugenics and white purity and also erasing the fact that blacks, Roma, and north african Jews were also killed in the camps.)
2. That time a Jewish person made a comment on fb saying “the only reason people care about the Holocaust is because it happened to white people” and got tons of likes from white and POC friends alike (Erasing the fact that the western world only decided to care a few decades after the fact, when it wasnt as fresh, and theyd had the time to really work out the details of how they were going to frame it and make it look like the US were the heroes liberating the camps after the US government knew what was being planned by Hitler, knew waht happening while it was happening, and did nothing. Not to mention sending Jewish immigrants trying to escape before the war broke out back to Europe to die in the gas chambers.) This is just one example of Jewish obies stepping all over their ancestors memory in order to climb the white-ally-social-ladder-of-justice-and-excellence i cannot understand it as anything other than self hatred masked by love of “the other”...
There's much more. But that dismissal of the Holocaust as "white on white crime” is a jaw-dropper. Has it really come to this?
Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Evening Standard:
As Corbyn tightens control over Labour, the strangest thing about Corbynism is the inconsistency between the socialist pacifism at home and the anti-Western militarism abroad. At first his views seemed so colourfully crankish that they were hard to take seriously. As has been exposed since he became leader, Corbyn and his entourage have backed a motley crew of dictatorships and terrorist organisations, from the IRA in the Eighties to Hamas and Hezbollah (“our friends”), and have attended meetings with an array of sinister anti-Semitic conspiracists. (Corbyn makes clear he is not anti-Semitic himself.)
If you exclude the anti-Zionism, you might be forgiven for believing this is all history: in fact, it is about the present.
Corbyn’s entourage have a world view that is entirely different from that of virtually all Western governments. Their villain is “imperalist” America followed by Britain as colonial-oppressor-turned-American-poodle, joint perpetrators of the criminal Iraq war, while their preference is for the regimes/movements that oppose Western power.
Tyrants and terrorists are excused their brutalities because the Corbyn camp has an irrational faith in anyone who is anti-Western, no matter how mercilessly murderous or financially corrupt. To arm ourselves with nuclear weapons or drones to defend democracy is simply wrong. We do not need arms because, unlike Hezbollah, Iran, North Korea or China, we are incapable of using them for any purpose other than greed, slaughter and conquest.
You might expect these secular socialists to loathe Islamicists as medieval fanatics but they analyse jihadist terrorism as a reaction to Western crimes, believing the West must be guilty to arouse such hatred, an analysis of terrorist courage implied by Ken Livingstone when he said “because of our invasion of Iraq … they gave their lives”. Corbyn disapproved of drone strikes against IS and, after the Paris atrocities, of police shooting terrorists.
And then there’s Russia, which has a special place in this world view as the first Marxist state and vanquisher of Hitler. President Putin isn’t ideological; if anything he is a nationalist autocrat with a mission to restore Romanov-cum-Soviet authority, but that doesn’t matter because he opposes the US.
Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s head of communications, has appeared on the propaganda channel RT to defend Russia’s Ukrainian adventures, for which he blamed Nato, and humbly interviewed Putin at a Kremlin-run conference. For years he has defended Stalinism in his Guardian columns: “For all its brutalities … communism in the USSR delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security” and “if Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in famines of the Twenties and Thirties then Churchill is ... responsible for the four million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine.”
At the weekend, Ken Livingstone defended not just Stalin’s part in the Cold War and Putin’s meddling in ex-Soviet republics with ethnic Russian populations, but seemed to excuse Litvinenko’s murder because “American presidents authorised assassination attempts against Castro”.
This Kremlin soft spot leads to one of Corbyn’s gaping inconsistencies: the unilateralist “pacifist” reluctant to shoot terrorists threatening to slaughter English civilians says nothing about the murder of Litvinenko.
Meanwhile, the sage promising honesty presides over a faction imposing its will on the Labour Party with Leninist ruthlessness....
In his essay The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, George Orwell described “the power worship which has infected the English intelligentsia”, adding that an English socialist “would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save the King than of stealing from a poor box… Many Left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, always anti-British”.
As Orwell foresaw, Corbyn’s “pacifists” are worshippers of the glamour of that species of supreme power that only comes from the deployment of violence to change society. Orwell insisted British voters would never buy this: “Power-worship has never touched the common people.” But it didn’t matter much then because these were the views of factions on the borderlands of politics. Now they do matter; this puzzling farrago forms the views of the Opposition. Even if Corbyn is unelectable, they have never been closer to power than they are today.
Underneath the A12 by the Lea in Hackney Wick:
By street artist Donk.
The title of this slightly post-apocalyptic photographic work is ‘Higher Ground’. According to Donk he "wanted to make an image that made some kind of a connection between human strength & vulnerability and the innate strength and vulnerability found within nature itself; an ability for survival and renewal beyond the odds. So eventually I ended up with an image depicting this lone female figure standing on top of a tower of debris, which is gradually being reclaimed by the wild."
It's encouraging to see street artists adopting the ambitious scale - and pretentious verbiage - of their more mainstream gallery peers. A sign, surely, that street art is now attracting the right sort of people.