Thursday, March 24, 2016

We Think We're a Big Deal, But We Are Not

Can you see how perfect she looks from afar: Our joint home? 
I tried a sketch of Earth seen from space, and this is what Earth could look like.
Look, how perfect she is. The colors of seas, deserts, woods, and the air around her. The Moon may be visible, too. 
I want you to think about it. For good reasons, it all was mentioned in the Koran al Kerim:

'He created seven heavens, one above the other. His work is faultless. Turn up your eyes: Can you detect a single flaw?' (67:3)

'Allah does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. Allah loves the equitable. ...' (60:7)

'There are some who declare: 'We believe in Allah and the Last Day', yet they are no true believers. They seek to deceive Allah and those who believe in Him: But they deceive none save themselves, though they may not perceive it. There is a sickness in their hearts which Allah has increased: They shall be sternly punished for their hypocrisy. When it is said to them: 'Do not commit evil in the land', they reply: 'We do nothing but good'. But it is they who are the evil-doers, though they may not perceive it.' (2:8-12)

'Believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans -- whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is right -- shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret.' (2:62 & 5:69)

These words are written for you too -- you, who reads them now. No matter if you're a public official, a politician, or an average citizen like me. No matter if you call yourself a Muslim or anything else. Make no mistake about it. It's not allowed to randomly blow up other people, nor to excuse those who do so. And, whenever you try and do such, you can't change the universe anyway. From another planet, you are hardly visible; you're not even a crumb in space. So don't wast your energy on causing death and destruction.



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why the West has essentially always been a Feudal Society

I promise to do my best to be brief here, on the topic of Feudality @}}-

'The West' as we know it now, started its history among Kelts, Romans, Greeks, and among the Germanic peoples in South West Asia. Those latter gradually invaded Europe; then settled down all over Europe, sometimes submitting to Roman rule and sometimes co-operating with it. This, until the Roman empire was unable to maintain its rule over large parts of Europe, in 395 AD. Most authors define a Feudality as a system where a military leader, as a deputy of a King or an Emperor, owns a vast area of land, and allows the majority of the people to live on that land. The people living on that land either pay rent to or work on the land for a landlord, in exchange for military (and other kinds of) protection. The landlord, not having to work otherwise, could fully focus on defense. The king (who owns his own estate as well,) appoints new landlords to estates, or, at least, is the landlords' patron. This is the Feudal System known among the Germanic tribes. Its power was at its height from the 8th century till the 15th century AD. Feudal Society is seen as a collective, where the individual is supposed to serve the whole group. There's always some group ideal, for instance, God, the Nation, the King, or Independence, and to attain that, each person has a specific role of service, in exchange for another service. Feudalism is a system of paid group patronage in any form. Serving oneself, or one's own family, is seen as undesirable, nepotist behavior. Self-reliance is impossible for most people living in a feudal system. Self-reliance is only possible for those who own their means of production and housing, and also then, only up to a point. Sooner or later, also those with own means are to contribute heavily to the collective state. The core of any feudal system, is leverage between owned property and debt. Not being owner of a production tool, house or land, means not carrying the risk of it, and, at the same time, enjoying the benefits of using it. Thus, having debt is seen as an advantage and not a liability. It's a temporary enlargement of a personal estate. This, in spite of having to regularly pay for using the borrowed or rent property. Leverage is feudality's main strength, but it can easily turn into its main weakness, once income slows down. This may happen to entire groups of households and businesses, and then lead to a major financial crisis of a whole society.

More varieties exist. Western philosophers have spent many thoughts on them. Plato was inventor of an ideal feudal system. Philosophers were supposed to fully govern this society into detail, because they were considered morally outstanding. Society was supposed to be a hierarchical, communal system where individuals and groups had a clear role. Vertical mobility was possible in this utopian Platonic Community, but wasn't encouraged. Property, family life and marriage, were communal. The Romans had their own feudal system; many people had no property at all, and formal slavery also existed. Slaves lived with their masters. Big owners had the right to political and religious leadership. The Roman feudal system involved a lot more than only military patronage.

The Germanic peoples largely integrated the Roman feudal system into their systems, also after the end of Roman rule in Europe. Their feudal system changed over the ages. It started as a military system. Then, the Church entered as another feudal owner of land and real estate, and could never be disowned. A formal class society was introduced; top - down it looked like this: Church, Nobility, Free Citizens, and Serfs. With the Monarch and the Pope on top. Free citizens were those not part of both top classes, yet affluent and educated enough to afford their own estate or business. Serfs were those who lived in rent homes owned by the large landowner. Mostly, they weren't allowed to move out; they had to work and, or, pay to the landlord; and when the land changed ownership, they were part of the sold package deal. The landlord, in exchange, had to look after their safety and welfare, also after change of ownership. In business and production, the Guild System was aimed at disabling competition from newcomers on the market. Okay, it also wanted to organize the production chain top - down for more efficiency. Women, except for a few who managed to impose anyway, made no independent appearance in society; their status was defined by fathers and husbands. Women had no right of ownership, enterprise, education, inheritance, leadership, or free labour. And, in every society, a small group of non-committed nomads, gypsies, and homeless people persisted. Those who couldn't afford a residential existence, always risked to end up in that latter group. Society as a whole, was a top - down model, where the Church provided moral leadership, and Nobility and Monarchy provided economic sustenance. Free Citizens, however, consisted of artistic, entrepreneurial, philosophical, and engineering persons, who couldn't be silenced by the top classes, and who gradually gained more and more influence and power on societies.

The feudal system changed from the eighteenth century. The third class of free citizens had gained enough strength of argument over Nobility and Church to change society into a place where all inhabitants could participate on a more equal basis. Philosophers like Adam Smith wrote works on how to arrive at change. Why was it seen as necessary to come to a more equal distribution of wealth and distribution? Not only because it wasn't understood, why some individuals were more worthy of property, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, education, and free labour -- those rights didn't necessarily correspond with their capabilities -- but also because a hierarchical society wasn't able to fulfill all practical needs of all its inhabitants. A healthy market, after all, gives free access to all who can and want to participate. Only then, market forces can work efficiently and reach every supplier and customer. Every need will be met, at the right price. In a feudal system, there's only a handful of suppliers. They can't keep in touch with every 'customer'. They don't know, nor are they able, to fulfill every need. And, most people aren't allowed to fully participate. There's always something they are barred from: Be it work, selling, ownership, or production. And the reasons for that often aren't objectively justified. Prices are set by the small number of suppliers, who have insufficient knowledge of the real value of the product, in buyers' eyes. And buyers aren't allowed an alternative. There's enough alternative thinkable, such as home production or finding another supplier, but that's impossible in a feudal system, because of the compulsory patronage relations. This leads to severe shortages, when market supply slows down. And to severe debts among the many whose monthly rent duties to their landlord continue. During the Middle Ages, population didn't grow much, in Europe. Epidemics kept populations small. The problem of goods supply became a problem, when populations started to grow, as a result of new, improved farming technologies. The elite had to fulfill a much larger number of dependents' needs, and of course it failed. The West's traditional answers to this friction, have always been new Technology, Interest, and Occupation of Foreign Lands with Natural (and Other) Riches. Latter is called Colonialism, or Imperialism. Also Colonialism, Interest, and Technology failed to properly connect supply and demand, and also failed to keep all of its capable population involved in its society. The cost of providing for everyone and of finding the necessary supplies to do so, has been immense, and cruel. Even the sincerest, most compassionate elites are never mind readers, nor providers, for an entire people. Then -- what happens, if the people's fate falls in the hands of tyrants? The problem, that the traditional feudal system didn't allow bottom - up feedback, had to be solved. Free Civilians have tried to find answer in replacing Church and Nobility by equalitarian legislation. More people had to be allowed to participate in society. But, that was only possible after a lengthy process of violently removing Church, Nobility, and Monarchy, in many countries. Those elites didn't voluntarily give up their positions. And those countries that were spared of violence, finally weren't necessarily better off (That is, they didn't reach the aim of equal opportunity.)

What did the struggle towards Equality result in? Three main roads were chosen:  Communism; Fascism; and our present, more complicated, inexplicable road, called Planned Market Economy, also called, sometimes, Social Democracy. Briefly, those three systems have in common, that a small group of outstanding leaders are responsible for engaging the population in making One Society. Work, especially a group working activity, is considered key component of a society where all work for one, and one for all. The three of them are a direct inheritance of the ancient feudal society, with its patronage system, meant to build a society. However, only the third route, Planned Market Economy, has survived so far, and also that system doesn't look like it has a good permanent survival chance. Communism and Fascism couldn't survive their self-created ravages. Both teachings demand extermination of minorities: Those smaller groups who don't fit in the collective workforce of the state. Those minorities were specifically mentioned groups and those who didn't fit in anyway: Both the more outstanding and more humble groups of people. Not only people of color, homosexuals, gypsies, or people with a handicap, but also investors, intellectuals, or outstanding artists, were typical victims of Communist and Fascist regimes. They were killed. There are many differences between Communism and Fascism, the most important two being their fierce competition over the same target group they aim to service and the ownership of large property. Those matter less for the topic at stake here: The Feudal Patronage. Thank God the violent destruction of those minorities has been rejected now, which is the main reason, why most countries have turned their back on Communism and Fascism. It is perceived, that any state, at least, should uphold some sort of non-violent standard for all. Destruction of minorities obviously clashes with that standard. Therefore, the West thought that Democracy finally could overcome all inequality. Then, why did it fail?

Democracy aims at answering the general human need for justice, freedom, and equal opportunities for everybody. The traditional Feudality, after all, clashed with those values. The Church, Nobility, and Monarchies were, in most Western nations, seen as the main oppressive culprits to hinder them. Those powers were either overthrown, or they were given a much smaller, symbolic function in their nations. In the course of the twentieth century, also legislations were adjusted. Ownership, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, and labour were opened to everybody of sane mind and body and above certain ages. Same for the right to participate in politics. So, apparently, a society of freedom and equal right to participate had finally come. However, in many Western nations, large landownership persisted, and its population hence was still unable to provide for themselves. Technology had transformed Society in an industrialized, urbanized environment. Yet, in reality, the Feudal State moved with its people from the country to the city. In the city, and in villages with urban lifestyles, Social Housing Corporations and Local Authorities now became owners of most estates. They housed the people now, largely under very similar rules as in the Medieval days of the Feudal Estates. Because the people have to pay heavily for these Social Homes, a new patronage system needed to be established. How to achieve at that? Communism and Fascism were only partly able to arrive at that, because citizens were unable to freely express their needs and opinions. Since the Church and Nobility were dismantled, a new patron had to be found, and it was found in a depersonalized welfare and insurance system. The Nation's Tax Office and Government Insurance Institutions had key roles, here, in collecting funds from each citizen, as a percentage from their personal income, estate, or inheritance. Those funds had to be transferred to citizens without income, and to care institutions such as schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and disabled, prisons, universities, and many others. An elaborate protective legislation for labor, housing, health care, education and several other fields of interest was developed. With the fall of Communism and Fascism, the Democratic political process took over the legislative role. In the past, Guilds, Nobility, and Church organizations had these tasks more informally. Guilds nowadays have resurrected as Organizations for Employers and Worker Unions -- to keep it very brief. Democracy granted the average citizen the opportunity to ventilate needs and opinions, but the basic economics hadn't really changed, in spite of the advancement of technology and medicine. Most people still have no access to work, property, etc. And they must carefully balance leverage, and if the balance heads towards the debt side too much, homelessness still is a real threat. Homelessness in the West may even have increased in several countries, especially in the Netherlands, because they don't allow nomadic lifestyles nowadays, and because only the state is allowed to build homes. I hate to say so -- I once had to call the ambulance for a homeless man in my own street. And we know, how monopolies and oligopolies lead to increased prices. The reality is, that the majority of people have no property, no independent source of income, and can, therefore, be considered economically bankrupt -- like the Serfs, in the Middle Ages. Democratic rights haven't given those people a lot more economic right than to express their needs. 'Redivision of property' may very well mean ending up without property, to many, as a consequence of the duty of surrendering a large part of property to the Tax Office. This may mean loss of a house or a business, a situation that also effects those people who do have property. In times of low income, this threat is very real to many people. Economic rights, such as ownership or inheritance, exist on paper, but for many, not in reality, also today.

Because the Feudal State in economic reality persisted, also in today's Western Democracies, loss of income may, to many, lead to a large debt crisis of a whole society. Technology and Interest haven't led to the answer; they may even worsen the problem of scarcity and redivision, and it didn't put a stop to Imperialism and Colonialism. The many large State Institutions and Social Housing have to be paid. Some Western States have experimented with a newcomer on the Market Place: Money Creation. Could Money Creation be the over-all solution, or is more needed ...?

Sources:
Plato - The Republic http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html
The Germanic Peoples - Odin's Volk http://www.odinsvolk.ca/GermanicPeoples.htm
Feudalism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudalism
History of Feudalism http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac35











Thursday, June 11, 2015

More surprising and weird statements from Westerners on Islam: Volker Popp, Heinz Luxenburg, Eildert Mulder

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In 2007, I wrote a review in online Islamic newspaper 'Nieuwsfeit.nl' on a column, written by a columnist of Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw, Eildert Mulder: ‘The four rightly guided caliphs were no Muslims, they were Christians’. Eildert Mulder wrote several similar columns for this newspaper, of which the majority have been wisely deleted, also this one. Yet, they are rather exemplary for the way 'Islamists' and 'Arabists' in the West operate and try to influence opinions. This time, Mulder used a few coins to illustrate his case. German Islam-expert Volker PoppOnline publishing office of the German Saarland University, Universität des Saarlandes, had written a few things about these coins, one of which supposedly displays khalifa Muawiyya with John the Baptist’s head in his hand. Professor Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Christoph Luxenberg are connected to this university, too. The latter has a publication, it’s name is Der Koran zum ‘islamischen Kopftuch’. Firstly, Volker Popp says in his article, 'Bildische Darstellingen aus der Frühzeit des Islam', that the coin ‘definitely’ must date from the era of the four righteous caliphs, the period 632 – 661 AD. ‘Ali ra’s caliphate indeed was contested by Abu Sufyan’s son Muawiyya, who resided in Damascus. Muawiyya may have had his own coin, however, how likely is it that he allowed himself to be immortalized with John the Baptist’s head? Would a Christian monarch be portrayed with the head of a man as important to Christianity as John the Baptist in his hand? Volker Popp must admit that the head in the man’s left hand, a ruler figure with a lance ‘might as well be an censer’. Thus the object is described in art catalogues too. The coin’s backside shows a letter M with a cross. This could, says Popp, refer to its value, a thousand talents, which could make it a Roman coin. However, the letter could also mean something else, like ‘Muawiyya’, perhaps even ‘Muhammad’. The letters DAM are mentioned on it, which must imply that the coin has been struck in Damascus, however, Popp denies the Romans had their coining production there. Thus the suggestion is made that Muawiyya very well might have been a Christian Roman ruler and not ‘Ali’s Saudi rival. Question remains whether the coin may at all be Muawiyya’s product. The exegesis by both Volker Popp and Eildert Mulder is highly speculative and is by no means supported by evidence or findings. The coin may very well represent nothing more or less than a ruler figure with a censer and it’s financial value.
On the same website, Luxenberg says, in his article ‘Der Koran zum ‘Islamischen Kopftuch’, that Qur’anic verse 24:31, which says that women should cast veils over their bosoms, in Aramaic truly means that women should 'cast a belt over their loin’. A belt around their waist. Also in Christianity, the belt is a signaficant symbol of chastity for not only women, but monks too. Also, from hadith 318 Book 60 Volume 6 by Sahih Buchari, would appear, that women used to wear a cloth around the waist covering the hips:
Volume 6, Book 60, Number 282:
Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba:
‘Aisha used to say: “When (the Verse): “They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”
Shortly, Luxenberg thinks we should stop making things difficult, and we should read the Qur’an the Aramaic way. It’s not necessary to consider the new Islamic duties mentioned in this hadith, in his eyes.
All these efforts by Christians and other Westerners to re-write Islamic history indicate a non-acceptance of religiously-inspired records of history. For them, it is decided, that such scriptures are fabricated myths, fairy-tales, and miscellaneous gathered facts and narratives that may be fine sources for inspirational purposes, so-called allegories or deeper truths. Incessant efforts are made to parallel Islam with Judaism and Christianity. The big difference, however, is that especially Christianity, has a much less reliable historic record. Romans, the popes and other rulers destroyed much of its inheritance. Furthermore, Jewish history has a much longer time span. It is true, that the Bible holds the same narratives of the same events, but then we see that names, dates and events do not quite match. Judaism and Christianity, therefore, had to rely a lot more than is the case for Islam, on interpretation by scholars from later eras. Islam has a much clearer defined area of study with Qur’an and ahadith. One must acknowledge, that Islam has a different origine than Judaism and Christianity and also among different people. Thus, early on, one single qur’an could be recorded and memorized, which is still used by the entire Islamic umma, without modifications. Something similar goes for the recording of ahadith, however, it must be admitted, that only part of them was written down immediately, and part of the most authoritative ahadith were recorded only two centuries later, from many oral sources. This happened, though, in a way that they indeed can be used for historic reference. They may not each and everyone of them be infallible, but we can safely conclude, that the memorized events indeed took place. However, the conclusion that the Prophet pbuh indeed received Divine Revelations, is even with the ahadith at hand impossible to prove. Not often supernatural events, in the sense of spectacular ‘miracles’, took place; then to be reliably recorded. Meaning, events like walking on a water surface, apparitions of angels or Allah swt showing Himself. This aspect of it all definitely is a question of faith. Westerners try to ascribe the Prophet epilepsy or other illnesses--he underwent ‘a seizure’ at the moment he received a new Revelation. Islam, however, sees creation and the Scripture as miracle enough and has no need for stunts.
Sources:
'Bildische Darstellingen aus der Frühzeit des Islam' Volker Popp. Further reference: http://www.europainstitut.at/upload/publikationen/publikation_32.pdf or http://www.aai.uni-hamburg.de/voror/Personal/heidemann/Heidemann_Texte/Heidemann_Quran_in_Context_2010_Representation.pdf
(The links mentioned in my blog aren't always current, as they are based on a newspaper article of five years ago, but if you type the titles in your browser, you get many articles with this same content.)
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje