Saturday, November 29, 2003

My Disorganized Thoughts on Terrorism

When I hear the phrase "War on Terror," I cringe. My mind wanders and I begin to think of other cliches such as "War on Drugs", "War on Poverty", "War on Violence", and "War on AIDS." I don't just think of these phrases because they have the same grammatical structure as "War on Terror", but also because they bring to mind the same problems.

For example, the "War on Poverty" is a noble war, a war which should be fought. I, for one, would love to see the poverty problem defeated but I know that this is an impossible dream. This doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't try to reduce poverty and help the needy. Far from it, we should do all we can to help those afflicted with poverty. We should realize, though, that the "War on Poverty" is an ongoing battle that we must fight until Christ returns. Poverty will never be defeated until sin is completely annihilated from Creation. As such, we should never have a false hope that a certain program or societal structure will eliminate poverty, but we should have a true hope that we can greatly reduce poverty through a certain programs.

Furthermore, the war on poverty needs to be fought correctly. This means that the causes of poverty must be addressed rather than having poverty itself smothered. It's all fine and dandy to talk about the pseudo-Biblical platitude "God helps those who help themselves" - or, wait, I mean it's not. This psycho-blather completely ignores the human reliance on community. No individual can truly make it on their own, and those who claim that they have made it on their own steam are not only blessed with remarkable talent but are also lying. Should we not help those who are underneath the burden of poverty rather than smiling and congratulating those people who are standing on them?

Before I wander off too far and forget that I'm supposed to be talking about the "War on Terror", I'll get back to that topic. The problem with the "War on Terror", for me, is that it is such a mercurial phrase. Who are the terrorists? If there can be no differentiation between those who attack the American military and those who attack civilians, then we have a problem. What is terrorism? If terrorism is the targetting of civilians than the United States is just as guilty of terrorism as those it labels terrorists. In that case, the US should be attacking its own military and the various militias scattered throughout the US (remember Oklahoma? I do, they blamed Islamic fundamentalists at first.) Of course, that would mean that the US would have to admit terrorism is much more complex than they're willing to do. Either that or find some sort of link between the Al Queda and Timothy Mcveigh.

In the same way that the "War on Poverty" needs to address the causes of poverty, so too does the "War on Terror." When American pundits reduce the causes of terrorism to fundamentalism and hatred of freedom it never ceases to irk me. Sure, fundamentalism can be a factor (a generic term if there ever was one) but hatred of freedom? C'mon, people fall for that?

When phlegmatic propogandists make these claims they are ignoring any actual concerns those attacking American imperialism might have. Maybe some of these people actually don't like having their country bombed, gutted, and occupied. Maybe they don't like having someone else imposing their value system or plundering their country's wealth. In attacking terrorism it simply doesn't do to attack terrorists. For every wedding blown apart, for every guerilla fighter mowed down, and for every neigbourhood destroyed by a "smart" bomb there are dozens of new recruits, full of hatred. Can I blame them? Would I reacte differently in such a circumstance? Attacking terrorism in such a way is like a farmer running around his field chasing field mice with a pitchfork . . . at night-time. It's war that simply can't be won if it is waged that way. Of course, I'm assuming that the US actually wants to win the "War on Terror", which I probably shouldn't do.

Now if the US wants to win the "War on Terror", they're going to have to go after the causes of terror. The cause of terror, unfortunately, is not terrorists. It's much more complicated than that, and I feel the US would have to do a lot more than they're willing to do to begin to remedy the situation. I don't think terrorism will ever be eliminated, but we can try.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Anne of Green Gables, the Abridged Version
as told by my thirteen-year-old sister, Rachel den Boer

Matthew Cuthbert stared in horror at the girl before him, “You? You’re to be our adopted child?” Yes!” Ann said a little too cheerily. But then again, everything Ann said was a little too cheery. (Notice there is no “e” on the end of “Ann”. This is for purely unromantic reasons.) Matthew shuddered, wondering what in tarnation to do. He couldn’t take the child home to Marilla, could he? She’d throw a fit! Ann’s lower lip trembled, “You don’t want me, do you? Oh, I knew this would happen! It seems to me that whenever someone is perfectly happy, riding on top of the world, flying with the moon, drinking in the sunlight, they wake up. Oh, I know it’s a perfectly pessimistic view, but it seems to always be true, and that perfect happiness is only an illusion, just a dream, and then something happens to shatter it, like a crystal vase breaking before your very eyes. That happened to me once, did you know? During my traumatic youth- I have no idea what traumatic means, do you? But it sounds so perfectly romantic, don’t you agree? I just must use it, even though my life is not at all romantic. People always poke fun at me for using such big words, but I simply must, because there is no other word to use, and I think it’s downright mean to laugh at a child for merely attempting to talk. But back to what I had been saying, during my traumatic youth I was dusting in one of the houses that took me in and I accidentally- accidentally, mind you- knocked over one of the most prized possessions, the crystal vase that was positioned on the coffee table. I felt like time froze in that horrible moment when the vase was in the air. The lady there could simply not stop yelling, she said that’s what she got for taking in a redheaded orphan. Red hair shall be my end, I feel like I could be in the depths of despair over simply being born with red hair. But still, I did feel glad that the vase did have one moment of perfect freedom, before it shattered into a million pieces. It looked so calm and serene there, flying through the air with not a care for the world. Yes, it’s last moment was it’s best moment, and I feel perfectly romantic that I could have a hand in bringing it about. Though no one could feel perfectly romantic when one has red hair of course. Red hair and freckles, which I think is perfectly awful and I feel most doubly cursed.” (This is only the abridged version of Ann’s speech, I took out about 23 pages worth of other stuff.) It was at this moment that Ann paused for breath, and Matthew, although not at all outspoken, decided that he’d better say something before any more cobwebs grew on his chin. “Well, now, I reckon that is a story, but I guess we had better get going, afore the sun goes down.” “Oh! You mean I am staying with you? How perfectly lovely! I do feel almost truly happy now, Prince Edward Island is such a lovely place to live, and I’ve always wanted a real home!” But before Ann could say anymore, or Matthew could come to adore her, or Marilla could let her stay at Green Gables, or she could have a real home, or meet Diana, or eat ice cream, or go to school, or fall in love with Gilbert Blythe, a huge crystal vase came flying out of the sky and conked her on the head. Ann keeled over, a look of horror (an extremely unromantic one at that) etched in her face. Matthew stood uncomfortably for a minute, then feeling awkwardly that nothing could be done, decided to go back to Marilla and tell her he hadn’ t found anyone at the station.

Moral: No one can be almost truly happy when they have red hair and freckles. They always meet their end early.
I was just finishing up my paper for Early Modern History in preparation for my presentation on Monday when I found out that my Post-Soviet Politics paper is due on Tuesday, not Thursday of next week. Well, at least I have the consolation that by Tuesday at eight o'clock, when I see Rob Joustra's smiling face, I will only have half a paper left.

Papers are really fun in hindsight, but right now I can't truthfully say that I'm enjoying myself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I took my research books for my Post-Soviet Politics paper to the public library today to have them renewed but they were confiscated by a lazy-eyed librarian reading a pulp-fiction novel. Grrrrr.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I presented on the topic of the Scythians today in Ukrainian History. True to his word, Rob Joustra sat front and centre. Unfortunately for him, the question he intended to ask was stolen by another student. That didn't phase brother Joustra, he just came back with two new doozies. Later he commented that he could have kept me there all afternoon. I don't doubt that he could.

When I speak I often have trouble because my mind blocks out certain words when I seek them or my mind will abandon my mouth to wander off in a different direction when a thought is only half-way out of my mouth. I often have trouble formulating sentences without some sort of mental preparation and this is why I rely heavily on texts. I'm sure with practice I can begin to fix this problem. For now, however, if I want to remain coherent I'll have to rely on pauses half-way into my sentences or reading what I've already written down.

All in all, the presentation went well. I wasn't too nervous (I had Rob Joustra's smiling face to comfort me) and I was confident that I knew the information. I was almost stumped a couple of times on some questions, but I was able to remember what I had read. I think the humour in my presentation helped a bit. Of course, if no one had laughed I think I would have trailed off into a mumbling monotone.

The following is one of the best stories I have found about the Scythians:

The mobility of the Scythians was extremely frustrating for their enemies. In 513 B.C., the Persian king, Darius the Great, raised a force of 700,000 men to crush the Scythian horde as punishment for their raids into the territory of the Medes. He marched into Scythia from the West, fully intent on destroying the Scythians with his superior force. The Scythian tactics were simple, to retreat while the Persians advanced and to attack while the Persians retreated. The Scythians continued to draw the Persians further and further into the steppes, often leaving cattle behind to instill a sense of accomplishment in their enemies hearts. Soon, however, Darius grew tired of chasing the Scythians and sent a messenger to the Scythian king, Idanthyrsus, inviting him to battle and condemning him for his continual retreat.
Idanthyrsus, according to Herodotus, replied that the Scythians only continued to live as they always had. As for their alleged fear he said, “we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and try to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you.” Finally, the Scythian army approached the Persians and it appeared a battle would occur at last. Suddenly, Herodotus reports, a loud whooping arose as Scythian warriors broke their battle lines and galloped impulsively after a hare. “These fellows have a hearty contempt for us,” Darius is said to have muttered to an aide. Alas, Darius withdrew, and it was not the Scythians, but the Greeks who were to have the historical distinction of soundly defeating the Persians.

Apparently the Scythians had ADD.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Dracula

I'm currently reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. While I suppose it's not a good idea to watch the film before reading the book, I did watch Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 take on the Dracula story yesterday night. The film was far more blatant in its sexuality than the book, but I still thought that Anthony Hopkin's turn as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing was well-done. Equally brilliant was Gary Oldman as the count himself ("I understand you to be a man of good . . . taste".) I laughed out loud at the dialogue between Dr. Seward and Dr. Van Helsing:
Doctor Jack Seward: "You want to autopsy Lucy?"
Van Helsing: "No no no, not exactly. I just want to cut off her head and take out her heart. "
Perhaps some will think of me as no better than Vlad the Impaler, but Anthony Hopkins delivered that line perfectly.

The book is still far better and I don't recommend the movie.

Why is Keanu Reeves the same befuddled character in every movie?
You waan fi know Keanu's best line? "I have offended you with my ignorance. I am sorry."

Even though I haven't finished the book yet, I did come across an interesting quote which relates to the limits of empirical science and, yes, also (unintentionally?) the danger of rejecting that same science. Dr. Van Helsing (a Dutchman!) is confronting Dr. Seward's inability to account for the strange blood loss of Lucy Westenra:

"`You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men's eyes, because they know - or think they know - some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it want to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which yet but the old, which pretend to be young - like the fine ladies at the opera. I suppose you do not believe in corporeal transference. No? Nor in materialisation. No? Nor in the reading of thought. No? Nor in hypnotism -'

`Yes,' I said. `Charcot (the teacher of Freud) has proved that pretty well.' He smiled as he went on: `Then you are satisfied as to it. Yes? And of course then you understand how it act, and can follow the mind of the great Charcot- alas that he is no more! - into the very soul of the patient that he influence. No? Then, friend John, am I to take it that you simply accept fact, and are satisfied to let from premise to conclusion be blank? No? Then tell me - for I am student of the brain - how you accept the hypnotism and reject the thought-reading. Let me tell you, my friend, that there are things done today in electrical science which would have been deemed unholy by the very men who discovered electricity - who would themselves not so long before been burned as wizards. There are mysteries in life. Why was it that Methuselah lived nine hundred years, and "Old Parr" (Thomas Parr, said to have lived between 1483 and 1635) one hundred and sixty-nine and yet that poor Lucy, with four men's blood in her poor veins (from transfusions), could not live even one day! For, had she live one more day, we cold have save her. Do you know all the mystery of life and death? Do you know the altogether of comparative anatomy, and can say wherefore the qualities of brutes are in some men, and not in others? Can you tell me why, when other spiders dies small and soon, that one great spider lived for centuries in the tower of the old Spanish church and grew and grew, till, on descending, he could drink the oil of all the church lamps? Can you tell me why in the Pampas, ay and elsewhere, there are bats that come at night and open the veins of cattle and horses and suck dry their veins; how in some islands of the Western seas there are bats which hang on the trees all day, that those who have seen have describe as like giant nuts or pods, and that when the sailors sleep on deck, because that it is hot, flit down on them, and then - and then in the morning are found dead men, white as even Miss Lucy was?'"

Oh, and a word of advice. If you are going to read Bram Stroker's Dracula, and you're a sensitive fellow like me, you might want to read the book while you're wide awake. I had a fairly strange dream after falling asleep reading Dracula. I'd elaborate, but I don't really remember the dream's plot (if dreams can have plots), I just remember seeing the count and he's not the nicest guy.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Scytho-Amazonian Possibilities

"The role of women and family is largely a mystery. A tale passed on by Herodotus recounted how a marauding band of Amazons clashed repeatedly with a Scythian contingent near the Sea of Azov. Discovering their foes were female, the Scythians dispatched their most virile young horsemen to make love, not war. The goal, according to Herodotus, was to breed new warriors. The women were easily seduced but not so easily domesticated. Rebuffing the Scythians' marriage proposals, the Amazons explained: `We are riders; our business is with the bow and the spear...but in your country...women stay at home in their wagons occupied with feminine tasks, and never go out to hunt, or for any other purpose.' Ultimately, Herodotus reported, the two groups rode off together and founded their own tribe. The women continued to dress as men and to hunt and fight. Although Herodotus' tale has long been taken as fiction, archaeologists in recent years have found the remains of a number of heavily armed Scythian women. Their weapons could be ceremonial, yet the graves are numerous enough, writes Esther Jacobson of the University of Oregon, a leading expert on Scythian art, `to allow one to conclude that there was in Scythian society a place for women to take up a warrior's role.'" - Smithsonian, March 2000 v30 i12 p89.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Update:

Laurianne has officially been declared a non-visitor.

Dr. Koyzis should not mention the word Confederacy in Political Science anymore, it only encourages Jake.

Someone said my fingernail needs vitamins, why is only one fingernail effected then? Huh?! Genius?!

I'm sleepy and my feet are cold.

I officially love Redeemer (the institution.)

I love the other Redeemer, too.

My forehead's itchy, but I'm typing so I won't scratch it just now.

My forehead is no longer itchy.

Jake Belder should be commended for confronting the "Rock of Gibraltor." Although I don't believe speeding between bumps will solve anything and I think the letter will only further encourage mean-harted attempts to further damage the bottoms of small cars, I do believe that mound of concrete has to go.

I saw a massively obese squirrel yesterday eating pieces of a smashed-up pumpkin. This squirrel didn't run away as I approached, he waddled. HE WADDLED!

Rob Joustra, thanks so much for the rides. I'll buy you a coffee some day, and we can discuss the tribes of Central Asia.

Richard Greydanus, we should take the bus ride together sometime. We both have an appreciation for the scenery.

I like pizza.

I don't have a favourite movie.

Well, see ya later.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

In the spirit of Dr. Koyzis' Atlantis posts:

Afro-Atlantean Theories

Colonel Braghine also believes that the ancient Ethiopians were in some way related to the lost continent of Atlantis. This is by no means a novel hypothesis, and we shall have something to say about it. The Greek historian, Proclus, tells of the the visit of a certain Krantor to the Temple of Neith in Sais, a famous Eyptian city. The priests showed Krantor columns of hieroglyphs telling the story of Atlantis and its peoples. Proclus cited as another authority on the history of Atlantis, The Ethiopian History of an ancient writer named Marcellus. Skylax of Karyanda, a famous Carian navigator, told of how Phoenician mariners traded with the Ethiopians of the Island of Cerne, in the Atlantic Ocean. At a later time Diodorus Siculus specifically stated that western Ethiopia was inhabited by Atlanteans. The German scholar, Eugen Georg, a keen student of the Atlantis question, seems to think that the Atlanteans were Ethiopians, for he tells us, "The new age that began after the disappearance of Atlantis was marked by the world-wide dominance of Ethiopian representatives of the black race. They were supreme in Asia and Africa . . . According to occult tradition, Semitic peoples developed wherever the immigrating white colonists from the north were subjugated by the black ruling class, and intermixture occurred, as in oldest Egypt, Chaldea, Arabia and Phoenicia." (The Adventure of Mankind, pp. 121-22, by Eugen Georg.)

Professor Leo Frobenius held that there was an ancient Atlantean culture, but he did not believe there was actually an island in the Atlantic Ocean, known as Atlantis. Frobenius located Atlantis on the West Coast of Africa; for he unearthed ruins of palaces and beautiful statuary in Yorubaland, a territory between the Niger River and the Atlantic Ocean; and he heard among the Yorubans legends of an ancient royal city and its palace with walls of gold, which in the long ago had sunk between the waves. "Yoruba, with its channeled network of lakes on the coast and the reaches of the Niger; Yoruba whose peculiarities are not inadequately depicted in the Platonic account - this Yoruba, I assert is Atlantis, the home of Poseiden's posterity, the Sea God by them named Olokun; the land of peoples whom Solon declared: `They had even extended their lordship over Egypt and Tyrrhene!'" (The Voice of Africa, Vol. I, p. 345, by Leo Frobenius.) This learned Africanist also speculated that the ancient Yorubans had cultural links with the ancient Mayas of Central America. "I cannot finish," to cite his own words, "without devoting a word or two to a certain symptomatic conformity of the Western Atlantic civilization with its higher manisfestations in America. Its cognate features are so striking that they cannot be overlooked, and as the region of the Atlantic African culture is Yoruba . . . it seems to be a present question, whether it might not be possible to bring the marvelous Maya monuments, whose dates have been deciphered by our eminent American archaeologists, into some prehistoric connection with those of Yoruba." (The Voice of Africa, Vol. I, p. 248.)

It has been suggested by the editor of the revised edition of Donnelly's Atlantis tha thirteen thousand years ago, before the destruction of the Atlantean continent, "the West and Central African civilization must have been a magnificent spectacle." (Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, p. 223, by Ignatius Donnelly, edited by Egerton Sykes.) If the conclusions of Frobenius have any validity, ancient West Africa was Atlantis. "This tradition of western situation of Ethiopia survived into the Middle Ages," Colonel Braghine notes, "at least we observe that one of the medieval maps calls the Southern Atlantic Oceanus Ethiopicus." (The Shadow of Atlantis, p. 214, by Colonel A. Braghine.) That this is a fact, we have no doubt, for on page 16 of Africa's Gift to America, the author has reproduced a copy of a map published in 1650, which shows the South Atlantic as "The Ethiopic Ocean."

- From John G. Jackson's Introduction to African Civilizations

Sunday, November 02, 2003

My girlfriend recently complained that I don't mention her very often on my blog. I am still under the impression that she doesn't even read my blog, but to test my hypothesis I will dedicate this entire post to her. If my girlfriend has a mixture of rage at the mention of her middle name and joy at my sweetly sentimental sap then I will know that she actually reads my blog. Otherwise I can continue to leave her conspicuously absent from this area of my life . . . If you just read that, Laurianne, I was joking.

Laurianne Armel Munezero was born on August 16, 1983 in Bujumbura, Burundi, the eldest of four children. As a child, Laurianne grew up speaking Kirundi, a Niger-Congo language spoken by both the Tutsi and the Hutu in Burundi (who, incidentally, also share the same culture.) When she began school she learned French, a Romance language spoken by Francophones. This means that Laurianne is tri-lingual and that her boyfriend, John Paul den Boer, must suffer in monolingual agony while she chatters away with friends and family, his name popping out recognizably every few minutes.

I will learn French.

I met Laurianne when my mother asked if I could give my sister and another girl a ride to their youth group. One thing led to another, and eventually I was a permanent volunteer for that particular job. I thought Laurianne was beautiful and I enjoyed talking with her. After several months of having known eachother, Laurianne asked my sister to subtly hint that she was interested in a date.

Here is my sister being subtle: "Hey John, Laurianne wants to go on a date with you!"

I said yes and began brainstorming for the perfect date. A good friend from work gave some valuable advice. He knew me well and told me that if I didn't want an awkward date I would have to keep talking. Now, that means saying intelligent things, not the first thing that pops into my head so I knew it was going to be difficult. Fortunately, the only thing that went wrong on that date was that I locked my keys in the car and had to force the window open while Laurianne stuck her arm in an attempt to unlock the door. Now, that mistake would have been understandable if I had not left the car running the whole time. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! (picture Chris Farley hitting himself in the forehead a la Tommy Boy )

Not a good start to the first date but Laurianne laughed it off and we've enjoyed three years and four months of eachother ever since.

Laurianne is about a head shorter than me. She has a beautiful smooth face and gorgeous brown eyes. When she walks, she walks with dignity and pride, with the regal bearing of a princess. Although she humbly dismisses it, her great great grandfather was a king of many lands in Burundi. What a wonder that a woman with such good posture would deign to give her attention to a man with such bad posture.

Laurianne's voice is soft and kind, like a warm gentle breeze. Her attitude is often the same, a gentle warmth and friendliness that extends to every person she meets (unless they prove themselves unworthy.) Don't be fooled into thinking Laurianne is all sugary sweetness because there's a spicy side to her. Laurianne once kneed a fellow in the balls when he got too fresh with her. And never ever think she's soft because she's far from it. That warm gentle breeze can become a torrential downpour of righteous rage. The thing that sucks is that she is, in fact, hardly ever in the wrong (I'm not saying that because I'm whipped, I'm saying that because she is, in all actuality, usually in the right.)

Laurianne, ndagu kunda cane.

Who deh?

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