February 22, 2009
|Imagine Goethe’s inner gaze marveling at majestic Mount Damāvand, the highest peak in the Middle East, immortalized in Persian literature through masterful works like Ferdowsi’s Shâhnameh. From its seemingly timeless lofty heights, Mount Damāvand, remains as unconstrained as the wind, in contrast with the social, political and historical changes unfolding all around it.|
I was looking for the fertile, picturesque places with names like warm valley and seven creeks where the judge’s grandson grew up when I came across images of Mount Damāvand and learned of its history.
Illustrations inspired by Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi)’s epic work entitled Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings) (1010) were submitted by Iran for inclusion inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2007. They now host a gallery of illustrations.
“Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi) was a prominent figure in Iranian poetry and the nationalist poet of the Persian Empire. He was born in the Iranian city of Tous in 941 and died in 1020, ten years after he finished his major epic work, the Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings). This is one of the classics of the Persian-speaking world and is on a par with the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Aeniad’ of the Greco-Romano cultural communities. An important feature of this work is that although during the period of its creation, Arabic was the main language of science and literature, Ferdowsi used only Persian and therefore helped to revive and maintain this important world language. Today Persian is spoken by over 65 million people in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan and diaspora communities. The Shâhnâmeh has also become an important text throughout Central Asia, India and the former Ottoman Empire. It has been copied countless times and three of these copies could be said to have universal value: the “Demotte Shâhnâmeh” made in the early 1300s for the Il-Khanid patron, Giyath al-Din ; the 16th Century “Houghton Shâhnâmeh” ; and the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh”, which was made in 1430 for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433), the grandson of the legendary Central Asian leader Timur (1336-1405). Only the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” has survived and is kept under lock and key in the Imperial Library of the Golestan Palace in Tehran. The Shâhnâmeh represents the quintessence of aesthetic and literary values of the elite rulers of the Timurid Renaissance who dominated Central and Western Asia in the 15th Century.”
In the nineteenth century, Goethe considered Persian literature to be one of the four main bodies of world literature (Ferdowsi 2006) and his “Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans” was inspired by Persian literature.
“When we turn our attention to a peaceful, civilized people, the Persians, we must — since it was actually their poetry that inspired this work — go back to the earliest period to be able to understand more recent times. It will always seem strange to the historians that no matter how many times a country has been conquered, subjugated and even destroyed by enemies, there is always a certain national core preserved in its character, and before you know it, there re-emerges a long-familiar native phenomenon. In this sense, it would be pleasant to learn about the most ancient Persians and quickly follow them up to the present day at an all the more free and steady pace (Goethe 1819 in Wiesehofer and Azodi 2001: Preface).”
For over 2600 years Persia has been at the geographic centre of trade and cultural exchange, friction If you draw lines from the Mediterranean to Beijing or Beijing to Cairo or Paris to Delhi, they all pass through Iran, which straddles a region where East meets West. Over 26 centuries, a blending of the hemispheres has been going on here—trade, cultural interchange, friction—with Iran smack in the middle.
“If we could realize that great works such as the Shahnameh [of Ferdowsi] exists in the world, we would not become so much proud of our own works in such a silly manner (Saint-Beuve cited in Wiesehofer 2001-08-18).”
1. This UNESCO site entitled Memory of the World hosts digital images like this 1430 illustration from the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433). It illustrated one of the stories in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameb (1010) showing the tyrant Zahhak, nailed to the walls of a cave in Mount Damavand.
3. “FERDOWSĪ,ABU’L-QĀSEM (329-410 or 416/940-1019 or 1025), one of the greatest epic poets and author of the Šāh-nāma, the national epic of Persia. See also ŠĀH-NĀMA. […] The sum of such heartfelt, mature, and eloquently expressed views and ethical precepts regarding the world and mankind have led to his being referred to, from an early period, as ḥakīm (philosopher), dānā (sage), and farzāna (learned); that is, he was considered a philosopher, though he was not attached to any specific philosophical school nor possessed a complete knowledge of the various philosophical and scientific views of his time. [His sobriquet or pen name], Ferdowsī means “[man] from paradise” (Khaleghi, 1988, p. 92). From Encylopedia Iranica”
4. The concepts of freedom and human rights allegedly originated in the first Persian Empire, as early as the c. 539 BC with the Achaemenid Persian Shāhanshāh Emperor Cyrus the Great (c. 600/576 BC – c. 530/29 BC). His successors including Darius ruled over a stable global superpower, the world’s first religiously and culturally tolerant empire administrated with the first human rights charter (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii) with a central government in Pasargadae for more than a thousand years. The borders of the Persian Empire ultimately extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus River, encompassing 23 different peoples and including nations and regions that by 2008 were called Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and the Caucasus region (Del Giudice 2008-08:5).” It was Emperor Cyrus the Great who freed the enslaved Jews of Babylon in 539 B. C. providing them with necessary funds to rebuild their in Jerusalem through the Edict of Restoration. (Del Giudice 2008-08:5)”
5. Cyrus the Great Cylinder, The First Charter of Rights of Nations: (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii)
“In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring. His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now (Frye 1963).”
6. Richard N. Frye (1920- ), now a professor emeritus at Harvard devoted more than sixty years to teaching, learning and research on Persian history. He founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard and is the Aga Khan Professior of Iranian history at Harvard University. Frye’s books entitled the Nation of Archers (1954) and The Heritage of Persia (1962) The Heritage of Persia (Bibliotheca Iranica, No 1). Islam and the West. Proceedings of the Harvard Summer School Conference on the …
His mentor and predecessor, Arthur Pope was director of the Asia Institute in Shiraz.
“Thus, to refer to the Sasanian period of Iran’s history, Vahram-i Varjavand, seems to me to be a greatly heroised example of the millenary tradition, for he is a truly messianic personality, even though probably a greatly heroised form of the historic Bahrám Chobin. As I have frequently stated, in the past of Iran, for the people, history was not what really happened, or even what they thought had happened, but what they thought should have happened. This is a fundamental characteristic of the view of the past among a people who have a strong epic tradition and a messianic tradition of time speculation (Frye, 1974:57-69 1964: 36-54 cited in Buck 1998).”
7. Some useful translations
Shâhnameh Shahnameh (Farsi) Emperor
Kūrošé Kabīr or Kūrošé Bozorg Kurose Kabir or Kurose Bozorg (Farsi) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Koresh (Hebrew in Bible) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Dhul-Qarnayn (Arabic in Qur’an) possibly referring to Emperor Cyrus the Great.
Damāvand – Damavand
West-Ostlichen (German) West-Eastern
Webliography and Bibliography
Buck, Christopher. 1998. “Bahá’u’lláh as Zoroastrian saviour.” Baha’i Studies Review. 8. London: Association for Baha’i Studies English-Speaking Europe. pp.14–33.
Farrokh, Kaveh. 2007. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. History.
Frye, Richard N. 1963. The Heritage of Persia: The pre-Islamic History of One of the World’s Great Civilizations. World Publishing Company: New York.
Ghasemi, Shapour. “The Cyrus the Great Cylinder.” History of Iran. Accessed February 24.
Knappert, Jan. Ed. 1999.Encyclopaedia of Middle Eastern mythology and religion. Longmead, UK.
Robertson, Arthur Henry; Merrills, J. G. 1996. Human Rights in the World: An Introduction to the Study of the International. Political Science.:7.
Lauren, Paul Gordon. 2003. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. Political Science. p.11.
Xenophon; Hedrick, Larry. 2007. “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War. History. p.xiii.
Del Giudice, Marguerite. 2008-08. “Persia: Ancient Soul of Iran: A Glorious Past Inspired by a Conflicted Nation.” National Geographic. PP. 34-67.
Ferdowsi, Abolqasem. 2006. Translated by Davis, Dick. 2006. Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. Viking.
Goethe. 1819. Noten and Abhandlungen zu besserem Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans.
Levinson, Von David; Christensen, Karen. 2002. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Wiesehofer, Josef; Azodi, Azizeh. 2001-08-18. Translated by Azodi, Azizeh. “Preface.” Ancient Persia: From 550 BC to 650 AD. I. B. Tauris. New Ed Edition.
Nurian, Mahdi. 1993. “Afarin Ferdowsi az Zaban Pishinian [The praises of Ferdowsi from the tongue of the ancients].” Hasti Magazine. 4. Tehran: Bahman Publishers.
Effendi, Shoghi. 1991. “Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster.” The Compilation of Compilations.Volume I. Baha’i Publications Australia.
Effendi, Shoghi. 1944. God Passes By. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Frye, Richard N. (1992), “Zoroastrians in Central Asia in Ancient Times.” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute. 58: 6–10.
Richard Frye, 1974. “Methodology in Iranian History,” in Neue Methodologie in der Iranistik. (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1974): 57-69 . Cf. idem, “The Charisma of Kingship in Ancient Iran,” Iranica Antiqua 6 (1964): 36-54.
November 22, 2007
For more recent article about Charles Taylor see Joshua Rothman’s November 11, 2016 “How to restore your faith in democracy” in New Yorker Magazine.
Published in 2007…
It is surprising that so little attention outside of Quebec is being paid to one of the most robust contemporary exercises in democracy, the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences. This commission on the social accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in Quebec, is participatory, accessible online, completely bilingual (French/English), pluridenominational and intercultural. Building on Quebec’s model of sociocultural integratation the Commission is examining issues related to managing diversity in a society committed to democratic participation and the protection of human rights. Issues discussed include relations with cultural communities, immigration, secularism with a focus on the management of religious diversity. Renowned Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, (1931-) and sociologist Gérard Bouchard will oversee the commission’s one-year mandate. The process includes gathering information from public and on-line forums.
Taylor argued that the media have promoted an image of Quebecers as exclusive by focusing on the most explosive racist and zenophobic comments. The moderate majority in Quebec are participating in the forums and are very welcoming toward immigrants and their cultures, and don’t adopt an attitude of exclusion (CBC 2007-11-16).
Some 88% of immigrants in Québec live in the Montréal area and account for 19% of the population (9.9% of the population of Québec). The population of Quebec is 7.6 million with 47% living in the Montréal area (GQ 2007:16).
1948 The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.
1960s Debate[s in Quebec “sought to redefine powers and the division of responsibility between the State and the Catholic Church (GQ 2007:6)”
1960s “Québec has ranked among the top 10 host countries of immigrants* among the OECD countries [since at least the 1960s] (GQ 2007:16). Source: United Nations, Trends in Total Migrant Stock, 1960-2000, 2003 Revision, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2004.
1970s Quebec adopted a “sociocultural integration* model or perspective. The sociocultural integration model compelled the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences “to reexamine interculturalism,* relations with the cultural communities, immigration, secularism* and the theme of Québec’s identity as part of the Frenchspeaking countries and communities of the world. In a word, it is, in particular, the management of diversity, especially religious diversity, that appears above all to pose a problem (GQ 2007:10).”
1975 Quebec adopted its own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “Québec’s political system is both democratic and liberal. It is democratic inasmuch as political power is vested, in the last analysis, in the hands of the people, which delegates such power to representatives who exercise it on their behalf for a given period of time. Our democracy is thus representative,* but is also liberal in that individual rights and freedoms are deemed to be fundamental and are confirmed and protected by the State (GQ 2007:12).”
1977 Quebec adopted the Charter of the French language (Bill 101), stipulating that “French [is] the language of Government and the Law as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business (GQ 2007:12).”
1981 “It is generally agreed that the main thrust of Québec’s integration policy was initially defined in 1981 in “Québécois—Each and Every One” which rejected federal multiculturalism* policy in favour of a policy of “cultural convergence.” “Québécois—Each and Every One” (action plan for the cultural communities), Québec, 1981, 78 pages. To our knowledge, this action plan dating from 1981 is the first government document to sanction the notion of a “cultural community (GQ 2007:14 footnote 23).”
1982 Canada incorporated a Canadian charter of rights and freedoms into the Constitution Act.
1985 “Although it is rarely formally spelled out in legislation, accommodation is deemed to be included in the right to equality that the charters recognize. It is a mechanism that the Supreme Court of Canada, which drew inspiration from a concept already recognized in the United States, sanctioned in 1985 in order to combat indirect discrimination,* which, following the application of an institutional norm* such as a statute, rule, regulation, contract, administrative decision or customary practice, infringes a citizen’s right to equality or freedom of religion (GQ 2007:8).”
1985 “March 20, 1985 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on recognition of the rights of the aboriginal peoples (GQ 2007:11).
1989 May 30, 1989 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on the recognition of the Malecite Nation (GQ 2007:11).
1990 “The Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration was adopted which proposed the notion of a “moral contract*” that establishes, in a spirit of reciprocity, specific commitments by the host society and newcomers. The integration framework proposed adopts the basic principles mentioned earlier, i.e. Québec is a liberal democracy* in which French is the common public language, and specifies the nature of the desired relationship between the host society and immigrants (GQ
2007:14) The Énoncé stipulates that Québec is: • a society in which French is the common language of public life; • a democratic society that expects and encourages all citizens to participate and contribute; • a pluralistic society, open to extensive cultural contributions within the limits imposed by respect for basic democratic values and the need for intercommunity dialogue. Source: Au Québec pour vivre ensemble. Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration, ministère des Communautés culturelles et de l’Immigration, 1990, page 15. (GQ 2007:14 footnote 24).
2007-01 The municipal council in the Mauricie town of Hérouxville adopted a code of conduct for immigrants in January. Seven of the region’s 10 towns moved quickly to support the list of rules. The Muslim Congress of Canada is considering a human rights complaint against the town.
2007-02-08 On February 8 “Québec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences in response to public discontent concerning reasonable accommodation (GQ 2007:5) [T] he current debate is taking place in a unique context of pluridenominationality (GQ 2007:6).”
2007 “Almost all Western nations are facing the same challenge, that of reviewing the major codes governing life together to accommodate ethnocultural differences while respecting rights (GQ 2007:5).”
2007-11-16. CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html
2007-11-21 CBC. 2007. “Montreal immigrants fuel debate on accommodation.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/20/qc-accommodation1120.html
Keywords used in Consultation on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences
[A]ccommodation related to cultural differences [. . .] “is based on the principle of negotiation, whether or not it is formal, between two parties, usually an individual and an organization, the first of which claims to be the victim of discrimination. Such negotiation seeks to strike a balance between each party’s rights without imposing an undue burden on the party targeted by the complaint.” [A]ccommodation practices or arrangements fall under two largely overlapping spheres, the citizen (cooperation) sphere and the legal sphere (GQ 2007:5).”
CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html
GQ (Gouvernement du Québec). 2007. Accomodation and Differences: Seeking Common Ground: Quebecers Speak Out: Consultation Document: Dialogue Makes a Difference. http://www.accommodements.qc.ca/documentation/document-consultation-en.pdf
Filed in democracy, heimlich, hospitality, religion and politics, Social History Timeline, Social Justice, Sociology
Tags: cultural racism, East/West, ethical topography of self and the Other, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, mass media, OECD, Other-I, Positive Presence of Absence, reasonable accomodation, self and identity, stranger, Taylor, Charles, unheimlich
July 16, 2007
Calgary-based senior economist at ATB Financial, Todd Hirsch comes to the unsettling conclusion that Albertans can enoy the boom as long as the chaos in the Middle East continues, global fossil fuel supplies remain insufficient and innovations in really inexpensive and accessible alternative energy sources are not found.
If the price of oil plummets to less than $50 US, the oil in the oil sands becomes too costly to extract. Hirsch lists the kinds of geopolitical, economic and scientific changes that would have to take place to make this happen.
Hirsch, Todd. 2007. “Alberta May Dodge the Bust Bullet this Time Around.” Comment. Globe and Mail. July 14. A19.
This photo was taken at 8:30 pm, July 14 from St. Andrew’s Park, Calgary,AB at the end of Toronto Street just above Crowsfoot Trail.
A timeline of boom and bust
1973 Global Oil Crisis. Alberta oil fuelled a financial boom that resulted in record-breaking population growth, housing starts, and construction activity (Hirsch 2007: A19).
1981- OPEC production was surpassed by that of other countries. Global energy supplies increased, energy prices collapsed and the US economy sagged. As oil prices collapsed, Calgary’s boom turned to a financial and real estate bust. Some overextened homeowners walked away from their mortgaged homes (Hirsch 2007: A19).
2007 Alberta is experiencing a financial boom with real-estate prices soaring, increased migration to the province and labour shortages (Hirsch 2007: A19).
Filed in Business & Finance, Economy & Finance, risk management, Risk Society, Social History Timeline, wealth disparities will intensify
Tags: East/West, energy, ethical topography of self and the Other, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Green Calgary, moral mathematics
May 22, 2007
Cupboards, drawers, boxes and storage bins are open and private everyday objects are strewn about, turned into something public in preparation for the moving sale. Personal histories related to each item are re-examined. Will they survive without the physical archives? Do they need to?
Le Carré describes this tortuous upending of a home in A Perfect Spy as agents tramp through every cranny and cupboard of her house. Mary’s husband, gifted in the spy tradecraft, has gone missing. He’s taken a ‘retirement’ and is writing his autobiography. I am intrigued by his process because he wants his story to read like a fiction and he wants his hero, himself to be lovable. In her interrogation with the agents, she said,
He’s not writing yet. He’s preparing.
He calls it a matrix.
When he retires, he’ll write.
He’s still finding the line. He likes to keep it to himself.
Listen to this: ‘ When the most horrible gloom was over the household; when Edward himself was in agony and behaving as prettily as he knew how. ‘
It’s from something he read. When he reads a book he underlines things in pencil. Then when he’s finished it he writes out his favourite bits (Le Carré 1986:51).
I think of a mise-en-abime, the hypodiegetic and diegetic framing narratology but this is only a spy mystery. But I also think of the collage-montage and I remember Benjamin. It seems to be what I am doing with my blog. I underline with digg or deli.cio.us. I cut and paste using Flickr, Youtube, Google docs or WordPress itself. But unlike Benjamin or the perfect spy, I scrupulously hot link the most reliable url I can find to every image, citation, idea. The blog itself may seem fragmented or may link the images with new juxtapositions but the sources can be followed by the reader. So my blog is more like a collage-montage than writing.
Before being driven to suicide through physical and mental exhaustion while fleeing the Nazis at the French border in 1940, German cultural theorist, Walter Benjamin was working on a consuming project to educate his own generation and awaken a new political consciousness (Buck-Morss 1991: 336, 47 in Holtorf 2001) . Using the Paris arcades as his prime metaphor, through his passion for collecting fragments of everyday urban experience he wanted his contemporaries to engage in a cleansing memory work, history with an ethical dimension, to revisit 19th century Parisian social and cultural history. He introduced a new form of ‘writing’ which consisted of cutting-and-pasting original citations without citation marks.
Benjamin’s fragmented direct, literal quotations, images and things were purposefully taken out of context. In this way they were deliberately not reduced to generally accepted theoretical or methodological frameworks or categories. He wanted his contemporaries to question unchallenged assumptions about anthropological nihilism, iron construction, the flâneur, the collector and capitalism itself. Something new was created from the old by constructed these fragmented, de-racinated elements into a collage-montage by juxtaposing them in a new way. In this way Benjamin questioned commonly held notions of ‘representation as finding some correspondence with an exterior reality’ (Shanks 1992: 188-90 Holtorf 2001).
Webliography and Bibliography
Benjamin, Walter. 1991. Trans. Buck-Morss. Das Passagen-Werk. Gesammelte Schriften, vol. V . Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp. [English edition 1996]
Buck-Morss, Susan (1991) The Dialectics of Seeing. Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project . Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press.
Shanks, Michael (1992) Experiencing the Past. On the Character of Archaeology. London: Routledge.
May 8, 2007
Charles Taylor distinguishes between ethics and morality by describing the latter as “that part of ethics which is concerned with our obligations to others, in justice and benevolence.” In the course that he is currently teaching (2007) Taylor examines how,
For some thinkers, this is the really important department of ethics, far more significant than questions about what constitutes a good or worth-while life. For others, this primacy is quite mistaken and unacceptable. This issue is often fought out under the description “the primacy of the right over the good”. If one accepts the primacy, certain questions open up: viz, utilitarianism versus a Kantian approach. If one refuses this primacy, then another set of questions become important, because there are a host of different ways of defining the good life (Taylor 2007).
Nussbaum (1994) rejected pro-patriotism arguments in favour of a more cosmopolitan identity which prioritizes human rights above a sense of national belonging. She began her essay with a quote from 4th century BC Cynic Diogenes who, “Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.”4
The Stoics stress that to be a citizen of the world one does not need to give up local identifications, which can frequently be a source of great richness in life. They suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The first one is drawn around the self; the next takes in one’s immediate family; then follows the extended family; then, in order, one’s neighbors or local group, one’s fellow city-dwellers, one’s fellow countrymen — and we can easily add to this list groupings based on ethnic, linguistic, historical, professional, gender and sexual identities. Outside all these circles is the largest one, that of humanity as a whole. Our task as citizens of the world will be to “draw the circles somehow toward the center” (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)1, making all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so on. In other words, we need not give up our special affections and identifications, whether ethnic or gender-based or religious. We need not think of them as superficial, and we may think of our identity as in part constituted by them. We may and should devote special attention to them in education. But we should work to make all human beings part of our community of dialogue and concern, base our political deliberations on that interlocking commonality, and give the circle that defines our humanity a special attention and respect.
The Stoic model is of course imperfect since Stoic process of drawing the circle toward the centre was based on assimilation. There was no concept of a sophisticated Derridian “philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view” or a “politics of friendship” which unsettles relationships to the stranger, the unfamiliar, the unheimlich.
Taylor has deplored the fact that most of us are content to not question what we value. What are the ethics and morals that are most important to us? Where and when did we adopt them? Was it conscious choice or osmosis? Pondering these questions in moral philosophy is not part of our everyday lives. As we slide towards a form of world citizenship, we will need to know ourselves so the values that are important to us are the ones we end of defending.
While Charles Taylor2 (1994) admired Martha Nussbaum’s (1994 ) with one caveat, he disagreed with her proposal that cosmopolitan identity replace patriotism. And of course they are both correct. Nussbaum’s call for a more inclusive global citizenship based on responsibility and caring is essential to the sustainable futures. But for all appearances we are still national citizens (Rorty 1994). However, the concept of the Westphalian nation-state has a historical beginning and its future form may be quite different from what we now experience. National sense of belonging will be quite different a decade from now just as it was prior to 911 when these articles were written. As we move into the unknown area of morality in a post-national world, will the secular humanist discourse be enlightened enough to stretch our sociological imaginations and allow us to negotiate solutions to seemingly irreconcilable differences.
Writing in Palestine3 in 1917 Abdu’l-Baha, a Persian spiritual leader called for a unity of the Orient and Occident, the North and the South. He called these concentric circles, ‘collective centres of human association and unity’ which were necessary for the prosperity of the world of humanity. However, he reminded his audience that these centres are accidental and temporary, composed of matter not substance, and therefore vulnerable over time to being swept away by revolutions and upheavals. He compared the transitory nature of these concentric circles of belonging and responsibility to the eternal and everlasting spiritual collective centre which is capable of embracing all races of men.
In the contingent world there are many collective centers which are conducive to association and unity between the children of men. For example, patriotism is a collective center; nationalism is a collective center; identity of interests is a collective center; political alliance is a collective center; the union of ideals is a collective center, and the prosperity of the world of humanity is dependent upon the organization and promotion of the collective centers. Nevertheless, all the above institutions are in reality, the matter and not the substance, accidental and not eternal — temporary and not everlasting. With the appearance of great revolutions and upheavals, all these collective centers are swept away. But the Collective Center of the Kingdom, embodying the Institutes and Divine Teachings, is the eternal Collective Center. It establishes relationship between the East and the West, organizes the oneness of the world of humanity, and destroys the foundation of differences. It overcomes and includes all the other collective centers. Like unto the ray of the sun, it dispels entirely the darkness, encompassing all the regions, bestows ideal life, and causes the effulgence of divine illumination. Through the breaths of the Holy Spirit it performs miracles; the Orient and the Occident embrace each other, the North and South become intimates and associates; conflicting and contending opinions disappear; antagonistic aims are brushed aside, the law of the struggle for existence is abrogated, and the canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity is raised on the apex of the globe, casting its shade over all the races of men. Consequently, the real Collective Center is the body of the divine teachings, which include all the degrees and embrace all the universal relations and necessary laws of humanity. (Abdu’l-Baha 1917)
1 Each of us is, indeed, as it were circumscribed by many circles, larger and smaller, comprehending and comprehended, according to various mutual circumstances (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)
2 This essay is hosted on a Charles Taylor resource site by Professor who describes it as “a response to Martha Nussbaum’s “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” which appeared in the Boston Review (Vol. 19, No. 5). Taylor’s response is part of an excellent discussion which includes Hilary Putnam, Benjamin Barber, Judith Butler, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William E. Connolly, Sissela Bok, and several other excellent thinkers. For Nussbaum’s reply to her critics, see “Asking the Right Questions,” from the same issue of the Boston Review.”
3. Delivered on March 8, 1917, in the summerhouse (Isma’il Aqá’s room) at `Abdu’l-Bahá’s house in Haifa, Palestine and addressed to the small, emerging community of Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada. Throughout his writings there is an insistence on the unicity of God and inclusivity though union and diversity, so that ‘divine teachings’, Holy Spirit, the Cause refers to a progressive religion which is constituted by all world religions.
4. The irascible Cynic Diogenes is perhaps not the most noble example of a world citizen since he lived by the precept that one’s personal happiness was “satisfied by meeting one’s natural needs and that what is natural cannot be shameful or indecent. His life, therefore, was lived with extreme simplicity, inured to want, and without shame.” Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.” (Diogenes. vi.). His world citizenship was not based on the responsibility or caring of a world citizen rather on his insistence on dismissing societal norms for his own sense of happiness. See Grout (1997-2007). Diogenes is perhaps a citizen of the world in the same sense as Humphey Bogart as Rick in the 1942 film Casablanca who declared his nationality was “drunkard” when interrogated by German officers. His companion joked that “That makes Rick a Citizen of the World.”
Abdu’l-Baha. 1917. “Tablet to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada.” Tablets of the Divine Plan. Haifa, Palestine.
Abdu’l-Baha. “The Divine Plan: The Cause of Baháu’lláh.” Baha’i World Faith.
Diogenes Laertius. 4th BC. “Diogenes the Cynic.” >> Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Essays on Greek history and culture and the later Byzantine empire. Encyclopaedia Romana and Greece. University of Chicago.
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Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Ethics and Morality at the Interstice between Patriotism and the Cosmopolitical Point of View.” >> Google docs
Filed in heimlich, hospitality, Philosophy, postnational, religion and politics, Social Justice
Tags: cosmopolitical, del.icio.us, Derrida, Jacques, East/West, ethical topography of self, ethical topography of self and the Other, Ethical turn, ethics vs morality, everyday.life, human nature, Nussbaum, Other-I, patriotism, Rorty, stranger, Taylor, Charles, unheimlich
May 5, 2007
American sociologist Amitai Etzioni (2007) argues that Western opinion makers are ignoring the potential of moderate religious beliefs and enriched secular humanism to respond to global transcendental questions that human rights discourse alone does not provide. The West is “falling behind in the global clash of belief systems.” Etzioni claims that the rest of the world is embracing religion in a spiritual surge while Western leaders of thought perceive religion to to be a threat, particularly to the Enlightenment project.
Rather than treating religion, as so many enlightened people do, as a relic of the past, long on passion and short on reason, the enemy of progress and freedom, the West will best learn to differentiate between moderate, civil religious interpretations and violence-prone, fundamentalist ones. The first kind address key transcendental questions that concern our obligations to one another and our cosmic destiny, while seeking to persuade people rather than to coerce them to abide by the religious tenets (Etzioni 2007a).
Etzioni, Amitai. 2007a.”The West Needs a Spiritual Surge” >> Amitai Etzioni Notes. March 6, 2007.
Etzioni, Amitai. 2007b. “L’Occident aussi a besoin d’un renouveau spirituel.” Le Monde. 7 avril.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Does the West Need a Spiritual Surge?” >> Speechless. May 4.