Saturday, 25 May 2013

Targeted killings

Random assassination is horrible wherever it happens, Woolwich or Waziristan, Boston or Baghdad, Oslo or Islamabad. But the sympathy of Westerners seems to be reserved for cases where the victims live in countries like our own. With the development of targeted assassination as a substitute for classical warfare we have entered a new era. One tragic result is that the very people who have the authority in their communities to put an end to violence are often those who are killed, for example Sheikh Yasin the blind and quadriplegic leader of Hamas, blown up in his wheelchair; he was on good terms with some rabbis, whose religion resembled his. At the moment most of the killing is by American drones or Israeli helicopters, and most of the victims are Muslims, but it won't stop there. The victims or their supporters are going to seek more and more opportunities for revenge in a tit-for-tat sequence with no foreseeable end. Sooner or later there will have to be some sort of agreement between all the states that have sponsored such assassinations: 'we shall stop killing your people if you will stop killing ours'.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Blogger's Blues: Cheer from Zarathustra.

Oh dear! I haven't blogged for more than 5 weeks. Since Obama's failure to say or do anything useful during his visit to Israel-Palestine, and with the continuing sectarian violence in Syria and elsewhere, I have been unable to think of anything positive to say. I need to remind myself by reading great Jewish writers that Judaism was at the origin of many of the greatest civilized virtues. Lately, though, I have been re-reading Zarathustra (not Nietzsche's fiction, but) the extraordinary Iranian who was the source of most of the values of post-Biblical Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Writing more than 3000 years ago, he rejected the old religion of caste, warring gods, animal sacrifice and shamanistic ritual. His Gathas (hymns) praise Lofty Wisdom, Ahura Mazda, origin of the world and source of the virtues of Justice, Integrity, Devotion, Good Government, Truth, Endurance and Human Wisdom. Ahura ('Lord') is masculine and Mazda is feminine, so there is not the skewed vision that comes of having a god who is a 'He'. Despite millennia of wars between the Persian and Greco-Roman empires, and later between Muslims and Christian powers, Zarathustra's ideas were carried all around the world by the daughter religions. I am not so keen on some of his other ideas - the Devil, the End Times, the Last Judgement, Hell and Paradise. It is interesting that later Zoroastrians believed that a Saviour would be born of a virgin, impregnated with the sperm of Zarathustra as she bathes in Lake Hamun, into which the Helmand River empties itself. Perhaps there is a virgin in the British Army who will come back pregnant from a swim in that lake before the troops are brought home. But it would be better if the British stopped thinking they can save the world.