Posts Tagged ‘India’

Cities built for man

By Jonathan Power

“What did these vain and presumptuous men intend? How did they expect to raise their lofty mass against God, when they had built it above all the mountains and clouds of the earth’s atmosphere?” This is St. Augustine writing about Babylon in his “City of God”. In more modern times Jonathan Raban has written in “Soft City”, “The city has always been an embodiment of hope and a source of festering guilt: A dream pursued, and found vain, wanting and destructive.”

St. Augustine wrote the “City of God” in a state of sorrowful contemplation. The city of man, he believed, ought to be a harmonious reflection of the City of God. In actuality it is vulgar, lazy and corrupt, a place so brutish that it lacks even the dignity of the satanic. St Augustine would surely write the same way if reincarnated in Atlanta, Johannesburg, Mumbai or Riyadh.

Johannesburg? Who can forget Alan Paton’s dark description of that city in his beautiful but painful novel, “Cry the Beloved Country”. The old, liveable, city got overtaken in the 1950s. “We shall live from day to day. And put more locks on our doors, and get a fine, fierce dog when the fine, fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously, and the beauty of the trees by night and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things shall we forgo.

We shall forgo the coming home drunken through the midnight streets and the evening walk over the starlit veldt. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives and that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution.”

Johannesburg, it is true has its own peculiar burden, but which of us city dwellers would be brave enough to say this does not touch some primeval instinct we have that tells us this is the way our own city might go, if indeed it has not already gone, as many have the last 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Gandhi and Mao – two Asians

Johan Galtung

By Johan Galtung

Let us start by summarizing. We are looking at six major leaders of forces and movements shaping centuries – Churchill-Hitler-Stalin-Mao-Gandhi-Mandela – comparing, two at a time. We are looking for similarities and dissimilarities. Some of them are out in the open, in their spoken ideologies. But most of them – maybe the most interesting–are hidden to the untrained eye. There are the similarities when they are from the same civilization and the dissimilarities when different – however much they profess to be on the same or very different lines. The six were themselves hardly aware of this factor.

As Churchill, Hitler and Stalin share the Christian-secular civilization; we would expect anti-Semitism, racism, and little hesitation when killing–by war, starvation (the Lord also did it), by revolution, millions – even with enthusiasm. Deeper down there are deductive reasonings from axioms about race and class and a final state: the British Empire, the Aryan Reich, for one thousand years, and socialism on the way to the final stage, communism forever; run from London, Berlin, Moscow. So we got the triangular Second World War with Moscow entering two alliances of convenience.

Enters Mao. He shares the word “communist” with Stalin (they still use it, long after it disappeared in USSR-Russia). But the Chinese civilization leaves its indelible imprint on that concept, giving the word a very different meaning, commune-ism, common-ism, doing things together, cooperating.

Enters Gandhi. An Asian like Mao, but watch out: there is no Asian civilization. There are West, Central, South–Hindu; Gandhi is here!–Southeast, East–Mao is here!–Asia; all very different–and a sixth, North Asia, Russian Orthodox. Read the rest of this entry »


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