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E l'Uomo non c'era ad Auschwitz

31 maggio, 2006 6 commenti

Norman Geras propone una “risposta” interessante al discorso di Benedetto XVI, quella di una lettrice del Times che, nella rubrica Letters to the Editor, argomenta in questo modo il suo garbato “dissenso” (uso le virgolette perché in realtà non è tale, come dirò più avanti):
 
Sir, The late Metropolitan Anthony — a monk and later head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe, a member of the French Resistance, a surgeon who also worked with survivors of concentration camps — was in a better position than Oliver Kamm to pinpoint the true question which must be asked of those camps, their perpetrators and their sufferers (Comment, May 30). The question was not, he said, “Where was God?” in all this. God, as always, was there suffering with the victims. The question was, and will be for all time, “Where was Man? Man as he is meant to be, in fullness as God intended and as Jesus made clear in the Beatitudes.”
It is Man who failed at Auschwitz, and the absence of what he really is meant to be, in communion with his Creator, explains such man-made horrors.
Katherine Barlow
Vienna
 
Dicevo che non si tratta di un vero dissenso, e il motivo è che il Papa sa benissimo dove stava Dio quando succedeva quel che succedeva nei campi di sterminio nazisti: come scrive la lettrice, era là, accanto ai sofferenti, come sempre. Ma per esprimere l’inesprimibile il Pontefice ha proposto una parafrasi della formula biblica già adoperata da Gesù stesso sulla croce: quella del Salmo 21 (“Dio mio, Dio mio, perché mi hai abbandonato?”), che poi è tutto meno che un salmo “disperato,” come si può evincere facilmente leggendolo per intero.
 
Ma, a parte questo, penso che Katherine Barlow abbia ragione: non era Dio, era l’Uomo che mancava ad Auschwitz. E questo, davvero, penso che possa mettere d’accordo tutti (vabbè,  quasi), laici e credenti, ebrei e cristiani … Sentite cosa dice Norman Geras:
 
I don’t subscribe to the theology here, unless in a secularized version – such that God is a name for the best aspirations of humankind, for a world in which people are by and large secure and protected against the worst forms of injustice. But Katherine Barlow speaks the truth. The failure is humanity’s – at Auschwitz then, in Darfur now.
 

And to make an end is to make a beginning

26 maggio, 2006 2 commenti
 
By one of those coincidences that don’t mean anything, 70 years ago today – and I mean to the very day – the poet T.S. Eliot paid a visit to a small hamlet in Cambridgeshire. He took the name of this place as the title for the fourth of his Four Quartets – ‘Little Gidding’. What has that got to do with the Euston Manifesto? Nothing, really.
 
But in the way of these things, I went back to the poem just to have a look, in case (you never know) I might find some other connection than merely the date. What I came back to there were these lines:
 

And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…

 
There you go – that gives me somewhere to start from this evening. Because I want to talk about ends and beginnings in both a public and a personal sense.
 
The first of these: 9/11 – September 11, 2001. It is a day imprinted on the public memory – indelibly – because the crime committed in New York and Washington DC announced a terrible willingness, of which few previously had been aware: a willingness to use terror without limit for political ends; a terrorism, that is to say, unconstrained by any concern about the numbers of the innocent dead. That day was both an end and a beginning because it showed, and to many of us in an instant, that the world was now different, dangerously so, and in a way not amenable to simple-minded responses.
 
This brings me to a second end and beginning, and if I may get your indulgence for this, I will frame it in more personal terms. It happened in the days immediately following 9/11. Not just simple-minded, but cold, shameful, appalling responses to the crime that had been perpetrated, parading across the pages of the liberal and left press. You know the terms of it: blowback; comeuppance; yes, a crime of course but… But what? But a crime to be contextualized immediately, just in case you might be unaware that it wasn’t the first or the worst crime in human history.
 
This kind of stuff, I regret to say, was coming principally from a part of the left. And in those few days, 12, 13, 14 September 2001, it became clear to me that this part of the left wasn’t a part one should have anything – or anything more, depending on where you were at the time – to do with if the left was to have a worthwhile future and merit anybody’s support.
 
Anyone who’s ever belonged to anything, as we all have – a family, a group, a club, a movement – will know that this involves having some quarrels. If you’re part of the left then you have your quarrels; and having been a part of the left all my adult life, I’ve had my share. But some things you quarrel about. About other things you draw a line.
 
Over 9/11 I decided the time had come to draw a line. A left truly committed to democratic values doesn’t make excuses for terrorism, not at all, not ever. Terrorism is murder. There is no context that makes it OK. This is a simple principle – that you do not want only kill the innocent – embodied in the most basic moral codes of civilized existence, embodied in the rules of warfare and in international humanitarian law.
[…]
One has to draw a line. This is not the authentic voice of the left, and it is not a voice which any self-respecting liberal should be willing to own. It is a disgrace to the best aspirations of the progressive and democratic tradition.
[…]
We need to insist that there is a different tradition which socialists and democrats and liberals can speak out for. There’s been quite a chorus of voices these past few weeks saying that the Euston Manifesto is of no account – though a lot of those saying so seem rather animated about it. Well, we make no extravagant claims. It’s a beginning, that’s all.

Categorie:anglosphere

Terrorism must be tackled 'head-on'


Excerpts from today’s speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair:
 
This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core.  By this I don’t mean telling them terrorism is wrong.  I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive; and then since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.
But in order to do this, we must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away.  The only way to win is: to recognise this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas, in which it operates, as linked; and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.

[…]
"We" is not the West.  "We" are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu.  "We" are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts.
This is not a clash between civilisations.  It is a clash about civilisation.  It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other. 
 
[…]
 
It should be our task to empower and support those in favour of uniting Islam and democracy, everywhere.
To do this, we must fight the ideas of the extremists, not just their actions; and stand up for and not walk away from those engaged in a life or death battle for freedom.  The fact of their courage in doing so should give us courage; their determination should lend us strength; their embrace of democratic values, which do not belong to any race, religion or nation, but are universal, should reinforce our own confidence in those values.
Shortly after Saddam fell, I met in London a woman who after years of exile – and there were 4 million such exiles – had returned to Iraq to participate in modern politics there.  A couple of months later, she was assassinated, one of the first to be so.  I cannot tell what she would say now.  But I do know it would not be: give up.  She would not want her sacrifice for her beliefs to be in vain.
[Italics all mine]
Hat tip: Harry

Categorie:anglosphere, esteri

Even a Christian (Tony Blair, for instance)

May I for once unequivocally perpetrate a fraudulent conversion by making copy/paste of this post by Norm:
I’m not myself enthusiastic about actors in the political domain publicly making reference to their gods. A certain reserve about this in British politics, as compared with what I perceive from afar to be the more God-invoking ways of politicians in the US, has always struck me as welcome. Excuse me, all the same, if I don’t get excited over the tongue-wagging reaction to Tony Blair’s remarks on the Michael Parkinson programme. In a media culture just lately dripping with multi-cultural understanding for religious sensibilities offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad, it shouldn’t be too big a stretch to take things calmly when a Christian alludes to his beliefs as well – Prime Minister or whoever. If it’s multi, then that’s what it is. Perhaps no one should, but everybody may.

Categorie:anglosphere

'But his Venice is not our city'

16 febbraio, 2006 2 commenti

His first book—Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994), turned into a Hollywood movie (1997) starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey and Jude Law—had a remarkable four-year run on The New York Times bestseller list. It also made the Author a celebrity in the southern US city of Savannah, where the book was set. Why? Well, perhaps because, as a Savannahian once declared, "Once upon a time John Berendt came to town, and Savannah hasn’t been the same since."
 
Yet, Venice, the setting for John Berendt’s new book, The City of Falling Angels, is vastly different from Savannah, Georgia, even though the Author—who spent much of the last decade in the “Serenissima”—has been trying to do in Venice what he did in Savannah with his first book: offer up local secrets and scandals for public perusal. That is why, perhaps, the translated Italian version hasn’t exactly been jumping off the shelves, as Elisabetta Povoledo pointed out in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune. As for the gossip, well, it must be said that
 
[b]y their own admission, Venetians take pleasure in gossip. In fact, talking about your neighbors is such an art here that there’s even a term in the local dialect – "tajar tabari" – for the practice of cutting someone up behind his or her back.
 
But it’s one thing for locals to tell tales among themselves, quite another when a stranger blusters in and does it. That is why some people here haven’t taken too kindly to John Berendt’s "City of Falling Angels," […]
 
As a result, for instance, asked to comment on the book, the mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari—who is also a philosopher and one of the most prominent Italian intellectuals— answered this way: "It’s not my habit to comment on books that don’t interest me or, for various reasons, I don’t like."  Or, to make another example, 
 
"His Venice is not our city," said Cristiano Chiarot, the director of marketing and communications for La Fenice Opera, which figures prominently in the book. Venice, he added, has many facets. "Berendt captured some of them but not its soul."
  
As a matter of fact, as IHT reported,

The author makes no bones about his American’s-eye-view of the city. "Obviously I wrote with a foreigner’s eye," he said in a telephone interview from his home in New York. "You can object to it, but it hardly sounds like a legitimate complaint. Foreigners have been writing about Venice forever."

But, as Elisabetta Povoledo sharply pointed out,
[o]ne thing that distinguishes Berendt from his predecessors is that he chose to write about Venetians.
 
There is actually a small difference …
 
 

Good news for Tibet? (2)

15 febbraio, 2006 Lascia un commento

Reuters reports that, according to Tibet’s government-in-exile, envoys of the Dalai Lama arrived in China a few hours ago
 
for secretive talks on allowing more autonomy for the Buddhist region[…]. It was the fifth round of talks since contacts between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives resumed in 2002.
 
From Dharamsala, the Indian hill station where the Dalai Lama is based, spokesman for the government-in-exile Thubten Samphel said by telephone that Dalai Lama’s “ultimate hope” is
 
“to resolve the issue of Tibet on the basis of negotiated settlement with the Chinese leadership so that Tibet people will have the freedom to preserve what is important to us, which is our cultural identity."
 
Reuters also reports that
 
analysts say China is committed to the dialogue in part because it fears that if the Dalai Lama, who is now 70, dies in exile, it could create a rallying point for Tibetans unhappy with Chinese rule and leave a destabilizing leadership vacuum.
That could also strengthen support among Tibetans for full independence, especially among youth frustrated with the Dalai Lama’s "middle way" approach that advocates autonomy for Tibet as a part of China.
 
 

Good news for Tibet?

11 febbraio, 2006 4 commenti

Good news from the front of Chinese-Tibetan relationship. Or, at least, hopes for warmer relations between China and the Dalai Lama. This is what we are led to think after reading in the Telegraph today that:
 
200 Chinese nationals attended a prayer meeting in India with the exiled Tibetan ruler.
Tibet’s government-in-exile, based in the Indian hilltown of Dharamsala, confirmed yesterday that China had issued a growing number of visas to ethnic Chinese and Tibetans over the last two to three years. Since 2002 representatives from Beijing and the Dalai Lama have held four meetings as part of a slow-moving process of rapprochement. A fifth meeting is expected later this year.
[…]
Officials in Dharamsala stopped short of describing the numbers of Chinese visitors as a breakthrough but agreed it was encouraging.

Categorie:anglosphere, religion