I watched an interesting program on the history of Istanbul (which started life as a tiny Greek fishing village), formerly known as Constantinople and, before that, Byzantium. Few, if any, cities have a more tumultuous history.
One interesting fact glaringly obvious from this history—which I probably knew, but ignored—is that Christianity is riven just as Islam is, i.e.. the ancient strife between Roman and Greek arms of the religion. They might not kill each other as much as Sunnis and Shiites, but the disagreements run just as deep. Constantinople competed with Rome to be able to plunder people foolish enough to believe in tales spun from ancient pagan rites. Each claimed to be the true home of Christianity and killed each other to prove it…just like competing arms of Islam.
Perhaps, this is one more bit of proof that there is no god, because all religion is invented, refined, and manipulated by humans. If I were god (ha, that would be something and stuff would change! ), I would certainly want a say in how I was worshipped and would not brook disagreements amongst squabbling earthlings.
Today, we discovered the existence (a long time ago) of someone famous in this part of the world, but probably unknown to anyone in the Western world: Ibn Batuta. I was compelled to look up the name in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Batuta). This was an interesting guy, the Marco Polo of the Muslim world.
We discovered at a mall, because we wanted to eat at Tony Roma’s. I was skeptical, because I am not a big fan of ribs. Strangely, I was the only one to enjoy the meal. Anyway, the franchise was located at the Ibn Batuta mall in Dubai. The food hall was located in a hall large enough to house a Boeing 747 and decorated with a life-size Chinese junk, the ocean-going variety of yore. Not knowing old Ibn, we could not figure out the decor, other than perhaps a Chinese investor. Only after dinner, when exploring to mall to find a shop that sold Pampers did we begin to suspect something unique.
Each section of the mall was dedicated to a part of the Muslim world or China. There as a part decorated like India, with over-sized elephants; Egypt; North Africa; Spain; and so on, all in vast scale with ceilings painted to resemble realist skies. They exhibited the travels of old Idn, which you can read about in the above Wikipedia piece (if you are of an inquiring mind).
Mr. B. deserved being honored in such a lavish mall, but I am surprised that anyone would spend so much money to decorate a mall. Obviously, these people did not understand or care about return on investment, because it will take a lot of rent to recoup the cost of construction.
Arms manufacturers and uniform suppliers everywhere are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of another war. How apt, considering that this is 2014.
I watched program recently on how World War I started, one hundred years ago. I learned in school only that an anarchist shot the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian dictatorship. In fact, he was a tool of the Serbian government. None of the participants wanted war, and most did not understand what they were getting themselves into...until it was too late to back down. No politician or king likes to admit making a mistake. After all, infallibility is perk. A disagreement between Serbia and Austria caused all major powers of Europe to waste a generation of men and led to further disasters in the 20th century. The history of the Balkans is messy and difficult to understand; problems still rumble below the false charm offensive needed to join the EU.
The situation in Ukraine, with an equally turbulent and misunderstood history, could be a spark to cause another unnecessary war, either cold or hot. Stupid politicians do not know the stakes nor what they are doing, despite the arrogance to believe they are right. But, there are profits to be made, so others are stirring things up and whispering sweet nothings in their ears.
Hypocrisy reigns supreme. Ukraine is threatening to develop nuclear weapons, which they can, while screaming about the potential threat of Iran. Known terrorists are present in the leadership of the new Ukraine government, but only terrorists that threaten the United States are denounced. One should not be surprised that Russia upset about such treats on its border. Of course, US news media, especially Fox, are telling a different story. The narrative must fit to a conflict, that the US can "solve". Like they did in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.
I always liked the bit in the US Constitution about no foreign entanglements. People that constantly tout this document tend to ignore this line, so important to the Founding Fathers. The United States is totally tied up in foreign entanglements, most of their own making. The problem seems to be that this line does not help sell guns...
There is a saying about blood being thicker than water. Although this makes little sense, I guess it means that relatives stick closer together than friends. History has proven that this is not always the case. One statistic that comes to mind is the number of murders and gunshot wounds of relatives in the United States.
This phrase came to mind when watching a trailer for a program on World War I. This is the one hundredth anniversary of a really big and stupid war (unlike some the more-recent small and stupid wars...which were big for all involved, but you get the point).
The word thick has different definitions. It can mean solid or viscous. It can also mean lacking intelligent or stupid. I pick the later definition to plug into the above saying about thick blood. The principle players in World War I were related. The King of England, the Kaiser of Germany, and the Tsar of Russia were first cousins. They had played together as children and met in later years. The wife of the Tsar was a German princess. The father of the King was German. Instead of sticking together, they squabbled and cost the lives of millions and led to the suffering of many millions. The Second World War is almost certainly a consequence of this thick (lacking intelligence) blood.
Anyone, like me, that has an interest in Asian history (or any history not taught in schools) and has read a bit, will find the following book review interesting. I might even buy the book, but the piece provides some interesting details (some of which I know from past reading, but are unknown to most Americans).
I heard a statement, which I had never heard, read, or even imagined. In an interview about her life, a woman said that her father had booked staterooms on the return trip of the Titanic. Matter-of-factly, she added that they did not go, “because it sank”.
I am certain that many had booked passage on the famous ship, which was merely another Cunard line vessel plying the North Atlantic route. None of those ticket holders have sought or gained notoriety, because nothing is special about not sailing on a ship--even the most-famous one. And, all surely breathed a sigh or two of relief about not having been ticket holders on the inbound journey...
When I was in private school, braver fellow students than I traveled to the South to march with, as they were called then, Negroes, to fight for equal rights. I recall reading at that time about Medgar Evers being killed and the memory sticks in my mind. I was aware of broad brush strokes in the media about what was happening, but was to comfortable and complacent to learn more or to become involved. (I am not a joiner or protester.) I witnessed segregation in action during visits to relatives in Virginia, but was unaware of any in New England (although it must have existed before my unseeing eyes). The first black student in the school system of the town in which I grew up was a mere curiosity, but was surely grumbled about in some homes and taunted on the streets. Black students were a normal feature of private school and college, and they became a regular feature of my life in the military. I treated them the same as I treated any race: I judged them by their actions and not their skin color. I recall being accused of having “prejudice” (the term for a racist in those days) by a young Black soldier, who I dressed down with words to the effect that I was not prejudice against him because he was black, but because he was a stupid jerk. (That was not prejudice, but sound judgement.) I did not let anyone use racial overtones as a crutch to excuse poor performance of duty.
After the Iron Curtain fell and I started dealing frequently with Russians, I would hear their opinions about the United States during long conversations. I learned that, during the Cold War, Soviet news programs carried regular features about the Civil Rights movement. This was not propaganda; they merely reported facts, which rarely made there way into US news media, if at all. Russians were better informed than I was about what happened in my country. (Despite growing up under different systems, we agreed that all people are deceived by their governments.)
Much of what they knew for fact I discovered by reading, such as a recent article in the New Yorker.
If you, like me, missed or ignored significant aspects of US history, this piece should help you to understand the underlying anger of Black citizens of a country that has cheated them, despite mouth service and laws protecting their rights. I have often said that man is a bad animal. Well, a certain type of white man in the South is one of the worst and a bred still on the loose...
I am skeptical of any history in which I was not a participant. People’s memories are faulty and egos force people to polish/embellish their contribution and denigrate/minimize contributions and or actions of people they don’t like.
If one takes the time to sniff out history, one obvious fact emerges. People managing/leading any empire--no matter how large or small--have tended to make many stupid mistakes in territories of those they dominate, usually because they do not understand local conditions and make decisions based upon ethnocentricity. Recent empires are easier to study, because documents and survivors, both victims and perpetrators, exist.
Myriad examples are available from the British Empire. Men (it’s always men) sat in London and made decisions affecting people in far-flung lands. Few, if any, had traveled beyond those “hallowed shores” or even spent much time outside their clubs. Before the wireless, requests for decisions were sent by boat and decisions were returned by boat, meaning that months passed from the need of an answer and the answer arriving. The situation had surely changed, meaning that the decision was meaningless or, worse, counterproductive.
Now, only communication speed has changed. Bad decisions can be communicated instantly. Stupid, misinformed, arrogant men (again, mostly men) make decisions affecting people in distant lands, about which they know (and probably care) little, much of which is surely incorrect. The British Empire has been replaced by the U.S. “empire”, with men in Washington replacing those in London with similar sad results for people under their thumbs.
Misinformed and malicious men have been making bad decisions for Americans and many peoples of the world since World War II (and, in some cases, much longer). As I come across more and more history, I have come to believe that the worst of the bunch held positions of power between 2000 and 2007. The world has no hope of becoming a better place because of these people. And, they made a once-great country even worse than it had been.
Of course, that’s merely one simple man’s opinion, which is based upon occasional reading and sparse perusal of various media. Men with reputations as great thinkers can be even starker in their appraisal:
Which makes no sense...
Supposedly, the moniker for Americans evolved in the minds of Mexican jailers during the 1800s upon repeatedly being tortured by hearing captured American soldiers or outlaws or tourists sing “Green Grow the Lilacs”.
Which also makes no sense...
I think of lilacs as being, well, lilac, or white. Of course, for most of the year, the leaves are green and no flowers are in residence, but the sight--and fragrance--which last only a few days each year are what make lilacs special and memorable. Those prisoners must have had poor memories. And, those jailers should have learned English...
P.S. The title should be Flower(ing bush) of the Day, but I found the one I chose to be more provocative and led into the text better.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.