April 18th, 2004


Empty Stomach

Sunday morning. The radio has a particular flavour to it because of the programme Sunday. I've mentioned this programme before. Its production isn't so different from other BBC news programmes and often I confuse it for the news proper upon waking. It portrays a world in which religious matters are of extreme importance and relevance. It's also exiled to the 7 to 8 slot in the morning. I always enjoy it. Certain topics make your blood temperature rise a little. This morning we've had alleged discrimination against a gay man seeking a lay position in the Roman church, just now it was the Christian subtexts of Bush and Blair, now it's the announced appointment of Jeffrey John as the Dean of St Albans. Previously it was the posthumous baptism of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust by the Mormon church.

This last one had me particularly muttering over the coffee pot. How dare they! Hubris? Nous? I wasn't sure what precedent there was in scripture for this practice, but I'd like to make it clear that should the Mormons attempt to intercede on my behalf in any manner following death, please ensure that they don't. My own petty antipathies aside, this does strike me as a horrendous insult to both Jewish memory and faith. It is true that Christian teaching emphasises the exclusivity of its path as a means of achieving salvation. In my own lazy theology, I've always held that following death that these things are beyond our control. What happens to Jews, or indeed any of us, following death? I have not the faintest idea to be honest. I look upon physical death as a veil which creates an fairly impenetrable divide. Yes, you pray for the dead as you also pray to the Mother of God and various saints. But as to what this world beyond is like. It is entirely beyond my understanding in the dimensions that are currently available to me. It's a mysterious and at times fearful place. But the thought, possibly for Mormons a literal thought in which people are standing in an orderly line next to an elderly white man with a large book and quill pen, that Jews slaughtered in that time, never mind just naturally passing away, are going to be somehow refused or stalled because of their lack of baptism... In a previous time, my attitude towards this would have been one of teenage petulance. If that's your attitude toward them, you take your afterlife and stick it up your... In this fairytale telling of heaven, were I now to witness Jews being refused in favour of Mormons, I would weep profoundly and ask to be cast into whichever area the Jews were being exiled to. Lord, in this Mormon world view, it seems they have to wander even in heaven.

It's not difficult to kick the Mormon church. I do own a copy of the Book of Mormon, which I found abandoned outside a house once. I tried to read it, but I was filled with a sense that I was holding something that was just wrong. I don't get quite this same feeling when reading the Talmud or the Koran or the important works of other faiths. Admittedly my view of the Mormons is three-tenths Osmonds and six-tenths A Study in Scarlet. I shouldn't be so quick to judge. Fortunately for me, we're not blessed with so many Mormons over here in the UK. There is a large church you pass somewhere on the way to Norwich, near Thetford I think. It looks like a chilling Frank Lloyd Wright Disneyland [Admittedly, this isn't it, but it's that sort of later style, unlike the pseudo-European look of the earlier buildings. This one scares me to the bone too. It seems hard to find a non-conspiratorial site on Mormon Architecture. Read with salt!].

Although I enjoy the profusion of journals, blogs and the like, I don't find it easy to keep up with them. I know there are any number of ways of syndicating these so I'm alerted to updates of favourites, but I haven't been bothered so far. There's about twenty or so I visit from time to time. One of these, Zenarchery, is by Joshua Ellis who I came across through his work for BitPass and Mperia. He made a post yesterday which I started writing a short comment on and then I stopped. The reason I stopped was simple enough. Paranoia. Visions of Homeland bots trawling around looking for foreign dissent. Visions of me being shunted back from the US border. I couldn't post anonymously (as if that would really make any difference though). Posting that reply here doesn't make it any safer, but it at least puts it in context. It was this paragraph which intrigued me:

But we're talking about ousting the Bush administration in 2004 here; we're talking about doing everything we can to prevent the slaughter of both American troops and Iraqi citizens in Iraq; we're talking about trying to repair the damage done to the Constitution by these crazy, jihad-ridden fucks over the last four years. We're talking about trying to salvage America's position and reputation going into this new century.

Dr Ellis' post was a response to Ralph Nader having a go at Michael Moore for his recent endorsement of a Democrat candidate and the fact that Moore, and other prominent liberal-minded people, have deserted Nader this time around. Fair enough, there seem reasonable grounds to hold that small portion of Nader votes responsible for the gnat's whiskers' win of Bush over Gore. The emphasis this time around seems to be on ousting Bush. I can appreciate this position. I'm not American, I don't understand the small print, but I can see that regime change is required to alter US foreign policy on Iraq and elsewhere. Mind you, in the UK, the similar would require me to vote Conservative or LibDem. I'm not currently tempted to do so. I don't vote. I think withholding one's vote is an invaluable democratic right and one I fully exercise in this country at this point in time.

I don't really feel it's my position to tell Americans how they should vote, I don't understand the domestic situation particularly. Had I left a comment, it would have read something like this:

Writing from outside of America, I'm intrigued by your use of the phrase "position and reputation". It will take far more than a single Presidential term to notably improve the latter. America's reputation is as much a product of the Whopper, Paris Hilton and the La-Z-Boy recliner as anything else. If there were fifty years of inspired autocratic dictatorship, the US might manage to turn around how it is seen in Peshawar or elsewhere. Do you really care about America's position? I'm not sure I've understood your meaning here. I'm from the UK and really couldn't give a monkey's for the position of this country, although I care deeply about what goes on inside it. In fact, downsizing America's position might be the only viable way to improve its reputation. Remove the opportunity for America to dictate world policy and the world might just become a better place and America more loved. Then again it might not. Hard to tell. (Adopts Hollywood Presidential tone) The choice is for you, the American citizen, to make... I certainly wouldn't vote for Nader. Who the Sam Hill is he anyway? I always wanted Johnny Cash to stand for President. Too late now. As a second choice, I'd go for Patti Smith. Not that she'd stand, she's too smart for that. Unlike Nader.

Oops. Sucked in...

Back to the Caucasus

Hmm, just noted that Sarmoung has now retaken its number one position. Not that I care too much for its position, but it makes giving the address easier. Look up Sarmoung on Google, it's the first one...

In the meantime, I found myself looking at these pictures of Vaynah/Vainakh towers and growing very sad that I may never see them. Yes, they might look like Irish towers, but come off it, they look more like Svan ones to me, or more definitely ones in Khevsureti. If these ones haven't been blasted by Russian forces already. If I spend my the rest of my life studying the Caucasus (I am tempted), I might still never know all the many tribes and groups that have lived there through its turbulent history. There's such a profusion of titles in the various indigenous languages, plus Russian and various Europeanised forms, not to mention the contention of these various terms by various political and religious groups in various countries, it makes your head spin trying to work out who is who in all this variety. Perhaps Khevsureti and Vainakh is the same thing...careful, that's the sort of lazy assertion that gets a thousand year feud running in the Caucasus. The Vaynah seems to be an older name for an ethnic group in Chechnya. Right, so the Circassians are distinct from the Chechens then. There is that occasional mention in literature of Circassian women being the most beautiful in the world. I can believe it, but the only photos you can find are of these freak show fakes. I probably have written that before. I write it again because I'm still looking for a Circassian wife. Shotgun wedding optional. So who are the Lezgians then? And what about the Kirgiz? That's not in the Caucasus, let's not confuse the issue anymore.

That's quite enough with the links. I'll go back to the towers now. Sigh...