Le massacre libyen

Il faut retrouver nos esprits, si c'est possible- et revenir aux choses bien plus sérieuses dans ce monde toujours et encore plus fou.
Comment pouvons nous continuer à supporter le comportement monstrueux de Kadhafi et de ses partisans, sans rien faire?

Lui et un de ses fils traitent ce conflit de 'guerre civile'. Il n'en est rien. C'est tout simplement un massacre des civils par ses forces armées. D'ailleurs il y a des cas d'aviateurs militaires qui ont préféré déserter plutôt que d'attaquer des civils.

On n'avait jamais trop d'illusions au sujet de Kadhafi et de son régime, mais voici encore une confirmation terriblement claire du manque d'amour qu'il a pour son peuple, de son sens d'irresponsabilité, et de sa détermination de ne jamais céder tant qu'il a la force à son côté, et malgré les conséquences atrocement meurtrières.

Le monde est toujours plus que prêt à critiquer sans relâche un pays qui exerce son droit à se défendre contre une agression externe. On entend même la voix de l'ONU dans des moments pareils, mais ce même monde est trop silencieux à l'égard de ce qui se passe actuellement en Libye.

Selon le NY Daily News les forces armés ont tiré sur les manifestants avec les mitraillettes et même avec l'artillerie antiaérienne, mais malgré les centaines de morts, Benghazi est finalement tenu par les démonstrateurs.
Sur la tv libyenne, le fils de Kadhafi, Seif, essayant de défendre son père, a dit que l'on exagère énormément. Il prétend d'abord que le bilan des victimes est de 14, avant d'avancer un autre chiffre de 84 un peu plus tard. Selon lui la révolte a été provoqué par les unionistes, les Islamistes, les immigrants illégaux, les drogués, et les media.
"La Libye n'est pas l'Egypte ni la Tunisie," il a répété. "Moammar Kadhafi n'est pas Moubarak." (Il est sûrement pire, nota de l'ed.).  
Selon lui, si son père (68 ans) est détrôné, le résultat serait "40 ans de guerre civile, de famine, et d'une invasion menée par les Etats Unis et les Européens dont l'objectif serait de prendre le contrôle du pétrole Libyen"..
"Il y aura des rivières de sang partout en Libye", a-t'il ajouté, en promettant des réformes et une nouvelle constitution si on arrête de manifester.

Les journalistes ne sont pas autorisés à entrer dans la région, mais le monde est quand même informé grâce à Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

A Benghazi au moins deux bataillons de soldats se sont joints aux démonstrateurs aussi pour demander la fin du règne (de 42 ans) de Kadhafi.
"Actuellement ils disent qu'ils ont défait la Garde Prétorienne et qu'ils font partie de la révolte du peuple", selon information reçue par Reuters d'un avocat (Mohamed al-Mana).
En Libye Est, la tribu al-Zuwayya a menacé de fermer la production de pétrole si les autorités n'arrêtent pas "d'opprimer les manifestants". La tribu de Warala, une des plus grandes de Libye, s'est aussi unie aux manifestants.

Il y a même des rapports disant que des soldats ont été arrêtés et des généraux exécutés pour avoir refusé de tirer sur le peuple. 
Le bilan des victimes civiles il y a deux jours avait déjà dépassé 500 morts.

Pendant que l'on n'entend pas beaucoup des expressions d'outrage du monde extérieur regardant ce qui se passe.

Nous avons une institution qui prétend représenter la loi internationale. Bien que les Nations Unies ont montré une incapacité à exercer une politique et des engagements militaires efficaces, cohérentes et sans ambiguïté, n'ont-elles pas quand même une responsabilité en ce qui concerne la situation en Libye? Ne peut-on pas affirmer que ce qui se passe dans ce pays est quand même criminel?

Seulement quelques chefs d'Etats expriment leur désapprobation regardant cette situation en Libye, mais la voix de quelques-uns ne sert à rien. C'est la voix et peut-être même la présence de l'ONU que la situation semble exiger- avant que les choses deviennent encore pire, car tant que la majorité de l'armée reste fidèle à Kadhafi, ce sera inéluctable si on attend sans rien faire.

Que les Nations Unies organisent une réunion d'urgence pour décider comment mieux assumer leurs responsabilités pour arrêter ce massacre. Et si elles n'en sont pas à la hauteur ou sont incapables d'atteindre un accord, que l'UE prenne cette responsabilité. Ce qui se passe en Libye est inacceptable dans le monde d'aujourd'hui.

Text by Mirino. Image Muammar Qaddafi, 22/2/2011. Wikimedia Commons. With grateful thanks. February, 2011

Web loggers' lunacy

Are we (web loggers) so vain and pretentious as to really believe that we are making a precious contribution towards making the world a better place to live in?
As probably the most modest contributor amongst the many millions in the whole wide world so devotedly engrossed, I'm persuaded to say, without any circumlocution, yes.

Snobbishly, one refuses to use the words 'blog', 'blogger' and 'blogging', not only because of the disagreeable connotations that arise in English when terms such as 'blog-roll' are used, but because, onomatopoeically, the words themselves seem to demean the considerable efforts of those noble enough to devote their precious time in making the world a better place to live in.

Web logging, however, can become a dangerous pastime. An infernal vortex dragging those so absorbed into a spiral of no return, where, informed by statistics, they become so conscious of the fleeting interest of their perfidious readers, that instead of condescending to throw one mediocre article to the avid millions every ten days or so, they feel obliged to knock their pans out writing far more rubbish than they had ever originally bargained for. And all this for nothing of course. In fact, woe betide anyone who dares to take too often an ungodly google at any ads so supplied. But this is of little consequence in any case.

The world is constantly shrinking, although one might think that the huge amount of human crap and refuse would be creating the adverse effect. But then if we consider the massive amount of irreplaceable fossil fuel the world is burning up, say in just half an hour, perhaps a cross-section of the world would resemble an over mature Gruyere. In any case, as far as communication and the sharing of information goes, there's no doubt that the world is getting increasingly smaller.
We have instant access to this growing wealth of information, to such an extent that to try to deprive a people of it would be totally absurd and self-defeating.

The furious contagion the Arab States are smitten with, seems to underline this. The awareness that 'Egypt has done it, so we can do it too'. And no regime can prevent anyone from taking pictures and making videos with their mobiles of the latest horror in order to visually inform the whole world of all such dramatic developments.
We are living in an era where nothing can be hidden. Even the Vatican has at last been rudely awakened to the fact. And there's no head of State anywhere who can get away with anything without the world eventually getting to know everything about it. This was already the case before Wikileaks. With Wikileaks the phenomenon is even going beyond certain 'acceptable limits'. It's ok if Julian hasn't Wikileaked himself and might soon be free to clobber the badies, but some might think he should tread more carefully with the goodies. At least this was how things went in the good old days when there was a much clearer distinction between the two.

Of course, this is all part of web logging. Having already alluded to the manifestations in Egypt and Tunisia, Viewfinder will now demonstrate how its contribution is helping to make the world a better place to live in, simply by supplying the following information.
Egyptian page views number no less than 5 within one week. But wait, that's not all, Tunisian page views amount to a staggering 21 during one month. Now while it's true that 5 can't really be considered representative of the Egyptian population of 83,000,000, it's nevertheless significant as proof that those five Egyptians have computers, access to Internet, and that apparently they didn't object too much to the mullock written. At least it's a start. Assuming that Egypt doesn't eventually become totalitarian and will establish a 'real democracy'- which logically means it would also have the option of becoming totalitarian- those five people could spread the word to the other 82,999,995. The miracle of communication. The implications give one goose-pimples. For the 21 Tunisians, little need be added, the same, simple logic obviously applies.  

Viewfinder ends this worthless post added as yet another vain effort to bring back the perfidious readers, on a melodious, note.

Protests for freedom, religious perusal
Historical subjects and all art vis-u-al
Doggerel verses and phil-o-sophy
Such are what one might call my 'cup of tea'

In front of the puter, writing and musing
Observing humanity winning or losing
Actions are rising and fortunes are made
Meaning for others that all hopes must fade

Trying to come up with brand new ideas
When one could go out and have a few beers
Writing for nothing might just please a few
But there are much better things one could do
 Where the time goes
Only He knows
Obsessed by a fad
I simply forget who I actually am
And then I'm quite sure- I'm mad

With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II

Text, parody and image (Peter Rabbit) © Mirino. February, 2011

Jonathan Swift, as 'poet'

Swift's poetry can't really be described as 'poetical'. There's no allusion to love or romance, no exaltation of natural beauty as one finds in the verses of Wordsworth, Shelley or Keats, amongst others.
His mock obituarist 'Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift'  is full of hard truth and satire regarding society, the literary and political establishment, and human nature in general. He playfully and cynically mocks everyone, especially himself whom he finally reveals in full. With humour and irony he imagines how he will be remembered. On hearing the sad news, for example, mundane female 'friends' continue their card game without so much as a pause. He starts by alluding to the maxims of Rochefoucauld- Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis nous trouvons toujours quelque chose, qui ne nous déplait pas... making his own equivalent observation-

"In all distresses of our friends
We first consult our private ends,
While Nature, kindly bent to ease us,
Points out some circumstance to please us."

Here are a few more lines from this fairly long and complete poem referring, in this case, to how he self-deprecatingly imagines his work will be considered and remembered after his death.

Some country squire to Lintot ° goes       
Inquires for Swift in verse and prose.                       
Says Lintot, "I have heard the name
He died a year ago." -  "The same."
He searches all his shop in vain.
"Sir, you may find them in Duck Lane: ¹                    
I sent them with a load of books,                   
Last Monday to the pastry-cook's. ²              
To fancy they could live a year!                    
I find you're but a stranger here.
The Dean was famous in his time,
And had a kind of knack at rhyme.
His way of writing now is past:
The town has got a better taste.
I keep no antiquated stuff;
But spick and span I have enough.
Pray do but give me leave to show 'em
Here's Colley Cibber's birthday poem.
° Bernard Lintot- bookseller, publisher of Pope's 'Homer' and earlier work.
¹ Where second hand books and out of print books were sold.
² To be used as lining paper for baking dishes.

There are no heart-aches, swoonings, exquisite perfumes and flowery ornamentations, as the offensive whiff that emanates from- and brings to life- this next complete example. As is most of his prose, his poetry is satirical, but never devoid of humour. Its purpose was/is to influence, awaken and reform, as well as to amuse the reader. This poem, in fact, reminds one of the accurate, objective, lucid and unpoetical observations of Samuel Pepys in his diaries.

A Description to a City Shower.

Careful observations may fortell the hour
(By sure prognostics) when to dread the shower:
While rain depends,° the pensive cat gives o'er
Her frolics, and pursues her tail no more.
Returning home at night, you'll find the sink ¹
Strike your offended sense with double stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to dine;
You'll spend in coach hire more than save in wine.
A coming shower your shooting corns presage,
Old achés throb, your hollow tooth will rage.
Sauntering in coffeehouse is Dullman seen;
He damns the climate and complains of spleen.²
Meanwhile the South, rising with dabbled wings,
A sable cloud athwart the welkin flings,
That swilled more liquor than it could contain,
And, like a drunkard, give it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her linen from the rope,
While the first drizzling shower is borne aslope:
Such is that sprinkling which some careless quean ³
Flirts on you from her mop, but not so clean:
You fly, invoke the gods; then turning, stop
To rail; she singing, still whirls on her mop.
Not yet the dust had shunned the unequal strife,
But, aided by the wind, fought still for life,
And wafted with its foe by violent gust,
'Twas doubtful which was rain and which was dust.
Ah! where must needy poet seek for aid,
When dust and rain at once his coat invade?
Sole coat, where dust cemented by the rain
Erects the nap, and leaves a mingled stain.
Now in contiguous drops the flood comes down,
Threatening with deluge this devoted town.
To shops in crowds the daggled females fly,
Pretend to cheapen° goods, but nothing buy.
The Templar spruce, while every spout's abroach,¹
Stays till 'tis fair, yet seems to call a coach.
The tucked-up sempstress walks with hasty strides,
While streams run down her oiled umbrella's sides.
Here various kinds, by various fortunes led,
Commence acquaintance underneath a shed.
Triumphant Tories and desponding Whigs
Forget their feuds,² and join to save their wigs.
Boxed in a chair ³ the beau impatient sits,
While spouts run clattering o'er the roof by fits,
And ever and anon with frightful din
The leather sounds;° he trembles from within.
So when Troy chairmen bore the wooden steed,
Pregnant with Greeks impatient to be freed
(Those bully Greeks, who, as the moderns do,
Instead of paying chairmen, run them through),¹
Laocoön struck the outside with his spear,
And each imprisoned hero quaked for fear.²
Now from all parts the swelling kennels ³ flow,
And bear their trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all hues and odors seem to tell
What street they sailed from, by their sight and smell.
They, as each torrent drives with rapid force,
From Smithfield or St Pulchre's shape their course,
And in huge confluence joined at Snow Hill ridge,
Fall from the conduit prone to Holborn Bridge.°
Sweepings from butchers' stalls, dung, guts, and blood,
Drowned puppies, stinking sprats,¹ all drenched in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.²

° 'depends'- impends (use of elevated register used satirically being inappropriate with the subject).
¹ 'sink'- sewer
² It was thought that the melancholy tendency of the English-'the spleen', was due to the wet climate. 'Dullman' from 'dull man.
³ 'quean'- slut or wench.
° Bargain for. 'daggled'- muddied.
¹ 'abroach'- spewing out water. 'The Templar' -young man studying, or pretending to study, law.
² At the time the government of Whigs had fallen. Swift was then associated with the Tories until their fall in 1714, when Queen Anne died.
³ Sedan chair.
° The sedan chair's roof was of leather.
¹ Run them through with swords. The bully, then common in London's streets and public places.
² Aeneid 2. 40-53.
³ The uncovered gutters in the middle of the roads.

° Eastern end of Holborn and West Smithfield.
¹ Little herrings.
² The authentic drainage system of the time. Finally a fetid, open sewer, draining into Fleet Ditch. 

Text and image © Mirino. Source- Norton Anthology English Literature, with thanks. 
February, 2011

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift's Irish father died seven months before his son was born in 1667. His English mother, a vicar's sister, was said to have returned to England leaving Jonathan, still very young, to be brought up by his father's family.
Thanks to the care of his generous uncle Godwin, he was educated at Kilkenny School then Trinity College, Dublin (1682) receiving his BA in 1686. (He was later to receive his Doctor of Divinity degree also from Trinity College, in 1702).

James II's abdication and Irish invasion caused Swift, with other Anglo-Irish, to leave for England where he was lodged by kinsman Sir William Temple, a retired diplomat and acquaintance of King William.
It was when he later resided in Moor Park, London, that he met eight year old Esther Johnson, the daughter of a house-maid. Swift became her tutor and mentor, giving her the nickname 'Stella' and they remained very close, to a mysteriously and controversially degree, for as long as Esther lived.

As a young man Jonathan Swift read a great deal, and as he decided without much enthusiasm on an ecclesiastical career, he took orders. During this time he also discovered his own gifts as a satirist. It's thought that between 1696-97 he wrote his satires on corruption in religion and learning.

He returned to Ireland when he was 32 years old as chaplain to the Lord justice, Earl of Berkeley, and already fully conscious of his gift as a writer, he devoted the rest of his life to religion and politics which were still correlated at that epoch. He was a staunch defender of the Anglican Church against the many who then seemed to threaten it.

Appreciated for his services, including his brilliant political journalism, (for the Tories as well as the Whigs) he was granted a deanship in Dublin, (St. Patrick's Cathedral) although he would have preferred a post, if not more prestigious, in England. This was in 1713, a year before Queen Anne died, and the Tories were defeated.

In 1724 he became leader of the Irish resistance against English oppression. He wrote under the pseudonym of 'M. B. Drapier'. All of Dublin knew who 'M. B. Draper' really was, but no one ever claimed the reward of £300 offered by the government for information that would lead to revealing the writer's true identity.
Swift is still regarded in Ireland today as a national hero. He fully merited the title he wrote for his own epitaph, '(...) vigorous Champion of Liberty'.

His final years were more gloomy, also due to what is now known he had always suffered from: Ménère's disease, causing deafness, vertigo and nausea. This with old age cast the final shadow on his duties as dean, as well as on his social life. Symptoms of madness were also manifest and he suffered terribly from what may have been an abscess in his left eye (1742). He died the 19th October, 1745.

His famous 'Gulliver's Travels' has been thought to express fierce misanthropy. It's true that he considered himself a misanthrope. He declared however, that he loved individuals, but hated "that animal called man": 'animal rationis capax' (an animal capable of reason).
He regarded human nature as being permanently defective, and was persuaded that nothing could be done to remedy this until man's moral and intellectual limitations were recognised.
He is considered to be one of the greatest writers of prose in the history of English literature.

As much of today's world seems to be engorged and swept along in a moving mire of tedious religious turmoil, fundamentalist fatwas, jihads, dogmatic doctrines and papal faux-pas, perhaps some of the 'Irish holy-water' of Swift's satire could, if not dilute things down a little, at least provide some light refreshment.

Here, for example, is an excerpt and conclusion from his- "An argument to prove that the Abolishing of Christianity in England may, as things now stand, be attended with some inconveniences, and perhaps not produce those many good effects proposed thereby". (Swift's argument against the 'Test Act' of 1673).

'(...) I confess, if it were certain that so great an advantage would redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit and be silent: but will any man say that if the words whoring, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, were by act of Parliament ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth? Is this a fair consequence? Or, if the physicians would forbid us to pronounce the words pox, gout, rheumatism, and stone, would that expedient serve like so many talismans to destroy the diseases themselves? Are party and faction rooted in men's hearts no deeper than phrases borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer principles?
And is our language so poor that we cannot find other terms to express them? Are envy, pride, avarice, and ambition such ill nomenclators that they cannot furnish appellations for their owners? Will not heydukes and marmalukes, mandarins and patshaws, or any other words formed at pleasure, serve to distinguish those who are in the ministry from others who would be in it if they could? What, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of speech, and instead of the church, make it a question in politics whether the Monument° be in danger? Because religion was nearest at hand to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our invention so barren we can find no others? Suppose, for argument sake, that the Tories favored Margarita, the Whigs Mrs. Tofts, and the Trimmers Valentini,¹ would not Margaritians, Toftians, and Valentinians be very tolerable marks of distinction? The Prasini and Veniti,² two most virulent factions in Italy, began (if I remember right) by a distinction of colors in ribbons, which we might do with as good a grace about the dignity of the blue and the green, and would serve as properly to divide the court, the Parliament, and the kingdom between them, as any terms of art whatsoever borrowed from religion. Therefore I think there is little force in this objection against Christianity, or prospect of so great an advantage as is proposed in the abolishing of it (...).'

'(...) And therefore, if notwithstanding all I have said, it still be thought necessary to have a bill brought in for repealing Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment; that instead of the word Christianity may be put religion in general; which I conceive will much better answer all the good ends proposed by the projectors of it. For, as long as we leave in being a God and his providence, with all the necessary consequences which curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such premises, we do not strike at the root of evil, though we should ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the Gospel. For of what use is freedom of thought, if it will not produce freedom of action, which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity? And, therefore the freethinkers consider it as a sort of edifice wherein all parts have such mutual dependence on each other that if you happen to pull out one single nail, the whole fabric must fall to the ground. This was happily expressed by him who had heard of a text brought for proof of the Trinity, which in an ancient manuscript was differently read; he thereupon immediately took the hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long sorites,³ most logically concluded, "Why, if it be as you say, I may safely whore and drink on, and defy the parson." From which, and many the like instances easy to be produced, I think nothing can be more manifest than the quarrel is not against any particular points of hard digestion in the Christian system, but against religion in general; which, by laying restraints on human nature, is supposed the great enemy to the freedom of thought and action.
Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit of Church and State that Christianity be abolished, I conceive, however, it may be more convenient to defer the execution to a time of peace, and not venture in this conjuncture to disoblige our allies, who, as it falls out, are all Christians; and many of them, by the prejudices of their education, so bigoted as to place a sort of pride in the appellation. If upon being rejected by them, we are to trust to an alliance with the Turk, we shall find ourselves much deceived: for, as he is too remote, and generally engaged at war with the Persian emperor, so his people would be more scandalized at our infidelity than our Christian neighbours. Because the Turks are not only strict observers of religious worship, but what is worse, believe in God; which is more than requires of us even while we preserve the name of Christians.
To conclude: whatever some may think of the great advantages to trade by this favorite scheme, I do very much apprehend that in six months time after the act is passed for the extirpation of the Gospel, the Bank and East-India Stock may fall at least one per cent. And since that is fifty times more than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture for the preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at so great loss merely for the sake of destroying it.' 

° The column which commemorates the Great Fire of London.
¹ Singers in the popular Italian opera.
² Rivals fiercely supported by the people in the Roman chariot races
³ An argument when one proposition is accumulated on another (Johnson's Dictionary)

Text by Mirino. Sources and Swift's citations- Norton Anthology English Literature. Wikipedia. Gulliver illustration by Louis Rhead. Portraits (modified by M) by unknown artists, with grateful thanks. February, 2011.

One way or the other..

If democracy hasn't become an ideal more Utopian than ever, determined more by mercenary considerations and/or the richest, therefore most powerful lobbyists, rather than by its essential principles and values, this wave of Arabian enthusiasm for freedom should produce some interesting results.

Paradoxically, with free world opinion, the Iranian regime, the Hezbollah and the Palestinians of Gaza also congratulate the Egyptians on their 'victory'. The Iranian regime would be far less inclined to congratulate its own people who no doubt have similar aspirations, in the unlikely event that they too ever managed to gain such a victory to establish their own 'real democracy'.

Islamic radicalism cannot possibly be considered compatible with democracy, principles of which are also founded on religious tolerance. This is why what is taking place across Muslim North Africa, if not elsewhere, is such a determining factor. If the results are 'democratically positive', let's say by European standards, it would be reasonable to believe that it could solve what seems to be a growing, Islamic, identity problem.

This would have an enormous impact generally and could even thwart whatever bellicose program was being fostered by the Iranian regime seemingly set on systematically aggravating division wherever possible to gain political foot-holds in order to pursue it. Needless to add, such goals have little to do with peace, stability and democracy.

Historically and geographically, Egypt is perfectly representative and situated to be the herald of Arabian democracy, and the results, one way or the other, are going to effect the whole world and its future stability, one way or the other..


Text by Mirino. Images AP, with grateful thanks. February, 2011

Cock & Bull fever

I must go down to the pub again, to play darts at the Cock and Bull,
And all I ask from Penelope is her approval full,
And a warm smile to see me off instead of the finger shaking,
And a welcome after closing-time with sweet love-making.

I must go down to the pub again, to enjoy some of their best ale
Is a fine need and a real need that always should prevail;
And all I ask is a few quid and never a refusal,
And 'enjoy yourself, mind how you go', instead of the same as usual.

I must go down to the pub again, to see Wally and old Mike.
To the Cock and Bull, it isn't far, I could get there on my bike;
And all I ask is a loving look and a bit of understanding,
And perhaps some help when I come home, to get up to the landing.

With apologies to John Masefield

Parody and photomontage by Mirino © February, 2011

John Donne

John donne (1572-1631) was the third of six children born of Roman Catholic parents when anti-Catholicism was rife in England. Catholics were then even subject to harassement by 'Elizabethan secret police'.

His Catholicism was a handicap he had to contend with, even though he was admitted to both Oxford and Cambridge universities- and Lincoln's Inn. He never applied for any academic degrees however, nor did he ever practice law.

He turned from Catholicism during the 1590s but was ill at ease with the idea of becoming an Anglican.
He pushed in gaining favour through charm and wit rising even to the queen's court (1598-1600) and later on was persuaded by King James to adopt Anglicism. The king was confident that Donne had all the makings of becoming a fine Anglican preacher which turned out to be perfectly true. The king made it a condition however that Donne would have no other preferment or employment from the Crown unless he accepted this function, which in 1615 he did.

Donne's poetry contrasts sharply with much of the sweet and decorous Elizabethan poetry. Inspired by continental poets, his was bold, sensuous, dramatic and philosophical.
John Donne was engrossed with the theme of religion, of how a seeker of truth can find the right path when there then seemed so many choices. As an ex-Catholic, this was one of his passions.

Of his five Satires, here's the last part of his third which shows his powerful imagery. In spite of whatever religious doubts he may have been tormented with, these lines seem to express timeless, earthly truth.

Graccus loves all as one, and thinks that so
As women do in divers countries go
In divers habits, yet are still one kind,
So doth, so is religion; and this blind-
ness too much light breeds; but unmoved thou
Of force must one, and forced but one allow;
And the right; ° ask thy father which is she,
Let him ask his; though truth and falsehood be
Near twins, yet truth a little elder is; ¹
Be busy to seek her, believe me this,
He's not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best. ²
To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,
May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way
To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,
Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
Reach her, about must, and about must go,
And what the hill's suddenness resists, win so;
Yet strive so, that before age, death's twilight,
Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.
To will ³ implies delay, therefore now do.
Hard deeds, the body's pains; hard knowledge too
The mind's endeavors reach,° and mysteries
Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.
Keep the truth which thou hast found; men do not stand
In so ill case here, that God hath with his hand
Signed Kings' blank charters to kill whom they hate,
Nor are they vicars, but hangmen to fate. ¹
Fool and wretch, wilt thou let thy soul be tied
To man's laws, by which she shall not be tried
At the last day? O, will it then boot thee
To say a Philip, or a Gregory,
A Harry, or a Martin taught thee this? ²
Is not this excuse for mere ³ contraries
Equally strong? Cannot both sides say so?
That thou mayest rightly obey power, her bounds know;
Those passed, her nature and name is changed; to be
The humble to her is idolatry.
As streams are, power is; those blest flowers that dwell
At the rough stream's calm head, thrive and prove well,
But having left their roots, and themselves given
To the stream's tyrannous rage, alas, are driven
Through mills, and rocks, and woods, and at last, almost
Consumed in going, in the sea are lost:
So perish souls, which more choose men's unjust
Power from God claimed, than God himself to trust.

°Blind to the differences between religions. There is too much light for Graccus to see anything. The quest for the truth.
¹The true church is most similar to the original.
² The person who seeks the truth is not an unbeliever.
³ To intend to do something.
° The mind's efforts will obtain firm knowledge.
¹ Man's authority doesn't represent divine justice (neither the Crown's nor the Pope's).
² 'Philip'- Philip II of Spain, 'Gregory'- any one of the Pope Gregorys (VII, XIII, XIV) 'Harry'- Henry VIII, and 'Martin'- Martin Luther.
³ Absolute, total.

If Donne had ever felt 'religiously uprooted', could it not also have been due to feelings of having abandoned the family faith through necessity or personal ambition?

Despite the pressure of Henry VIII, Thomas More never revoked his own faith, yet he seemed to have an even more philosophical and wider view of religion, going so far as to suggest in his 'Utopia' that God would approve of diversity.

Indeed, if one is convinced that all religions stem from one root, one essential truth, then diversity would be like culture and language, branches of civilisation. Each branch wends its own way in its quest to reach the heavens, making the tree, like the world itself, intrinsically beautiful.

Text © Mirino. Source- The Norton Anthology English Literature. Top image by French born English miniature portrait painter- Isaac Oliver 1565-1617. Lower image- John Donne's house, Pyrford. Photo (modified by M) SuzanneKn. Both images Wikipedia Commons, with grateful thanks. February, 2011.

The Fire

The dry summer breeze blew insistently and this seemed all that was needed.
The fire rose up as if unleashed from the earth, and spread, claiming everything within its cruel, sinewy reach.
Its time had finally come, and the pine forest would be its victim.

The resin bubbled and crackled as trunks became furious, flaming torches. The wood shrieked in the intense heat. It was a terrible, roaring inferno. It soon seemed as if the whole world were burning.

In a clearing in the forest there was a lake. Its shores were of gravel and large, round stones. Small animals huddled together amongst the stones. Their tails and paws were burnt and their fur and whiskers singed. They were frightened and exhausted.

As the stones grew hot, the animals were driven into the shallows of the lake. They shivered with terror as the blazing trees exploded, their terrible, reflections colouring the water.

Around the lake the fire swept. It arched and swayed, licking at the stones. But the breeze was no longer its follower. The fire stabbed and hissed, but the lake remained calm. A softer breeze sent small ripples as if to comfort the animals, and the lake returned the glare of the blaze.

Soon there was hardly anything left to satisfy the fire. It groped about the glowing remnants of charred trees and bushes. There was only the lake.

The lake ignored the fire. It had already begun to reflect the whiter clouds and patches of blue sky reappearing through the thick, dark smoke.

Victim of its own nature, the fire died by the shores of the lake. It seethed and spat its last curses, like threats and promises to return, until it finally smothered itself.

In the autumn the storm came.
New, fresh grass started to grow from the scorched earth. Moss again began to colour the stones by the lake. And the lake reflected the sky.

The little survivors of the Great Fire were already busy preparing for the cold months ahead. The forest, with its deep resources, would grow back again in time.

The following spring, after a long shower of rain, when the sun peeped through the clouds, the rainbow returned.
For a moment it arched over to meet its own upside-down reflection on the lake's smooth surface.. But then there's no upside-downs for rainbows, only beginnings and ends.

From the Rainbow series

This was the last of the 'Rainbow series', of simple, short stories originally written for children quite a few years ago. 'The Pond' and 'The Fire' are perhaps the weakest amongst them, but naturally the series, the elements and the circle itself, wouldn't be complete without them.

They were written when the author was just about to become a father, and when for him, perhaps more than ever at that time, there seemed to be a wonderful order and reason for everything. A period of what one might judge to be naive exultation, when love, the circle of life, the polarity of the elements seem to work perfectly intrinsically, and universally.

In spite of the unanticipated events of life, of catastrophes and tragedies, of wonders and miracles, man-made abominations and glorious achievements, he is nevertheless still persuaded of the truth of this.

In the rainbow vignette, there are two small links. 'From' will lead to the last story. 'Rainbow', in this particular case, will lead to the first story of the series, where there is also a link to 'The Pine-tree'. From there on, and in all other cases 'Rainbow' will lead to the following story.

Text and images © Mirino (PW) February, 2011

La crise égyptienne

Il se peut que malgré tout le Président Hosni Moubarak ait raison de ne pas avoir l'air trop intimidé face aux manifestations massives des egyptiens. On pourrait même lui donner raison de continuer ses fonctions de manière qu'apparemment il estime responsable.
Formation militaire, héros de la guerre de 1973, il est arrivé au pouvoir après l'assassinat de Sadat (1981).

Mais affirmer qu'il va continuer son mandat jusqu'en septembre de cette année pourrait être un mauvais calcul qui n'arrangera rien et ne satisfera personne.

Il va sans dire que la situation politique en Afrique du Nord est très instable donc dangereuse. Déjà le régime iranien commence à manœuvrer en profitant de l'occasion pour inviter les musulmans à se joindre politiquement- ce qui veut dire sous la bannière islamiste- contre les dirigeants qu'il estime trop influencés par le 'mal occidental'.
Pour les 'Frères musulmans', traités de bête noire depuis toujours par Moubarak, un tel événement pourrait aussi représenter leur justice poétique.

Si en Tunisie Ben Ali est peut-être parti trop vite comme un malpropre, au moins les tunisiens sont apaisés et une transition politique est obligatoire. Il y a donc une bonne possibilité qu'ils vont obtenir ce qu'ils réclament et méritent- leur démocratie, à condition que l'on se charge de cette transition avec précaution et responsabilité- ce qui veut dire un respect total pour les aspirations de la majorité de la population tunisienne.

Certains pensent que si Moubarak tombe, ce sera le chaos, mais si en Egypte les dirigeants traînent trop, le peuple, déjà totalement exaspéré, ne l'acceptera jamais, et avec raison. Le risque justement est là. S'il y a des éléments extrêmes au sein de l'armée et des forces de l'ordre égyptiennes, et si le peuple aurait la possibilité de leur donne carte blanche, un putsch militaire pourrait changer le jeu radicalement, et pas pour le meilleur. Le destin final de Moubarak, choisi et proclamé par lui-même, pourrait alors se réaliser plus tôt qu'il aurait anticipé.
Et dans un tel cas Israël risque aussi d'être plus isolé et plus vulnérable que jamais.

S'il y a une liaison entre ces deux événements d'Afrique du Nord déroulés successivement un peu trop près pour être commode ou tout à fait crédible, il y a d'autant de raison urgente de prendre les choses immédiatement en main pour éviter que la situation empire outre mesure.

Text by Mirino. (Top photo- Lefteris Pitarakis, AP. 2nd photo- Ahmed Ali, AP. with grateful thanks). February, 2011

Boston Tea-party

Compared to today's revolts, the Boston Tea-party (1773) might appear to be just that. One wonders why some of the rebels even bothered to disguise themselves as 'Red-Indians'.
Perhaps most of the settlers originally from Europe, in the then British colonies who appreciated tea, reasoned that only 'savages' would throw good tea overboard. It would make sense to blame such an uncivilised act on those then considered to be uncivilised.
Although North American Indians never took afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, the 'civilised world' was slow in grasping the fact that in many ways it was far less civilised than the natives of North America who had been living there for countless centuries before being brutally ousted by the arrival of an assortment of ever increasing land-grabbing Europeans.
Tragically most of the Indians and much of their culture- a deep respect for Nature and her resources, the integrality of the real, unreal and supernatural- had been wiped out long before the irrevocable reality of this was finally dawned upon.

However, the Brits, even under a King who talked to trees, already had the makings of a sophisticated secret intelligence service, seeds of the MI5, so they weren't completely duped by the Indian disguises. They had a hard enough time getting the colonists to pay British taxes, without considering how they could rip-off the Indian communities in the British colonies as well. But the British were naturally outraged and everyone agreed that it was indeed a savage act.

Amongst other British Commonwealth responsibilities, a trade slump in Europe, and famine in Bengal, (1770) the British government was desperate to find the necessary means to pay its armies whose official roll was to protect the British colonies and colonists. Considering the British army's military capacity in North America in the 18th century, at times the rolls between the army and the settlers could well have been reversed. Nevertheless, this was one of the reasons why the 'Tea Act' was infused by Parliament under King George III. It was therefore decided that the colonists should pay tax on tea. The idea was all the more tedious and unnecessary because apparently the East India Company's tea stocks were then brimful.
Maybe the British Government should have waved the tea tax and encouraged the colonists to make better coffee. This might have radically altered the path of history regarding the birth of the USA, but it could have vastly improved relations between Europeans and Americans for posterity, concerning  the general appreciation of potable coffee in America.

At the time of the Boston Tea-party, which boiled down to a reasonable refusal to pay tax on tea anyway, it's likely that no one was aware that such a storm in a teacup- the dumping of three ships' cargoes of 342 chests of Tea into Boston harbour- would lead to the War of Independence (1775-1782) only two years later.

But the USA had to be born one way or the other, and George Washington succeeded admirably in ensuring that this was so, not only as a fine military tactician, but also as the first, and no doubt one of the greatest Presidents (1789-97) in the history of the United States of America.

During the colonial period, the English and French were always at loggerheads for lucrative positions. Yet whilst electricity was being researched by Benjamin Franklin in America, and the development of such science, technology and even democracy was beginning to take great strides there and elsewhere, France, on the other hand, internally restricted by it's own dated system, still seemed to be living in the 17th Century. It's ironic that the French, under Lewis XVI, (who, quite oblivious to the internal crisis, continued to enjoy hunting and tinkering about with locks with the royal locksmith, François Gamain, who ended up by betraying him) fully supported the American colonists' rebellion against the British Crown. But the King and his council never seemed to have anticipated the horror on their own door-step, the French Revolution (1789). The monarchy, aristocracy and the whole absolutist system of France was totally decapitated, creating the 1st République. Even the Marquis de Lafayette, America's adopted hero and staunch military ally to the American Revolution, had to flee to Austria from France after the Champ de Mars massacre (1791) when he ordered that the demonstrators be fired upon. In reality, despite the utopian 'Liberté, Equalité et Fraternité'- none of which was ever applied at the epoch, and none of which has ever since been applied in any case- the French Revolution engendered a monster that fortunately ended up by destroying itself, leaving only an unkempt political vacuum of sans culottes. This- again ironically, but just as well- was filled by a self-proclaimed, First Consul- très culotté- in 1799, Napoléon Bonaparte, who was to become Emperor in 1804. But that's another story.

(The US Republican political 'Tea Party' firmly established itself in 2009. If not born from one of the relatively recent commemorations of the Boston Tea Party, certainly the historic event itself inspired the movement. Basically it also advocates the refusal to pay what the party considers to be unwarranted taxes, an end to the Federal Reserve System, and what are also thought to be unnecessarily excessive, foreign expenses. It also defends States' rights, and is against excessive government).

Text and image © Mirino (PW). Some sources- Wikipedia, with thanks. February, 2011