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Thoughts, reflections, impressions

dancers


I don't want to write to newspapers, maybe I've done it too much. I am not a journalist, not a columnist, but a writer. A writer who wants to be a sovereign ruler of its little homeland, of his territory, not to be a serf, servant or vassal of somebody else. Thus I have little else to do than to make my own paper, reorganize my web site to include a periodical. I began with it roughly a year ago, writing about my thoughts, reflections and impressions under the heading "The Newest". These pages here are a continuation of it, as the Estonian pages MMM are grown out from the previous "Kõige uuemat". Of course, my ambitions are greater than my resources, I lack both time and energy to edit my own web periodical, but I think even these short notices are worth to be published in this way, some of my impressions and thoughts are worth to be made public. This one-man journal is also a kind of a personal diary, although neither a very intimate nor a very orderly one: I am not the type of a person who writes down his/her thoughts and happenings every evening. I admire such persons, but I am old enough not to imitate them. I have always had an admiration for such pedantic people. Perhaps I must admit that I have always fought, tried to suppress the bohemian, the artist in myself, tried to study mathematics, do some research work in ecology and anthropology, be in politics. In this way, I have remained somehow between two worlds, being neither an artist nor a scientist, a person who is sometimes accepted, but sometimes rejected by both. I've always had trouble when I had to define myself, to explain who I was. As a kid I discovered that I wasn't an Estonian as my comrades, my father was Polish, and later, when I got my first passport (a Soviet one, of course) I had to decide what to write in the form under the heading "nationality". It is something that is still difficult to explain to foreigners. "Nationality" in the USSR couldn't be "Soviet", the Soviet Union was presumed to be a "multi-national" state, thus every Soviet citizen had besides his/her Soviet citizenship also a nationality - it could be Russian, Estonian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Finnish, etc. It gave us no special privileges or rights, but sometimes caused us some trouble, especially when you had the words "Jewish", "German" or "Chechen" written in your passport. I was told I could choose to be either Polish or Estonian, I thought about it, and choosed to be "Estonian": I didn't even know much Polish at that time. But still it had been a problem for me. Later there were other problems. I had to define my "profession", "speciality"and certain other things. Never was it easy, I always felt there was no proper denomination, no proper pigeonhole for me in the questionnaires and forms, I was not included, was an outsider (could we say "both-sider" in English?). It has remained so, after some desperate attempts to be somebody, to denominate myself, I have resigned, accepting my personal fuzziness. I have been fortunate enought to discover the Chinese Taoist-Buddhist philosophy and literature, Zhuangzi and others who have even cultivated such a fuzziness, refused to define, to denominate themselves. I agree to be somebody (sometimes I am not sure whether it's true and whether it makes sense), but feel no need to be somebody in a pigeon-hole. Later, after discovering my well-hidden Jewish roots, I have often thought about the Unnameable who also refuses to tell his/her name, declaring paradoxically and pleonastically only "I am who I am" (ahye asher ahye). Well, if we presume he/she has really modelled us upon his own personality or face, couldn't this paradoxical namelessness or undefinability be the feature that we share with him/her?


Now I see that I have a similar problem with this web site too. What is it? How to define it? What is the genre of my present favourite literary acitivity? Am I an "essayist"? A "journalist"? For these and other reasons I prefer the word "writer", it is the most general and vague of them all. To be a writer you have only to write and to be published. In the past it meant that the writer was dependant of his/her publisher. Now as we can publish ourselves, the publisher isn't necessary any more. And probably the literary rituals, the rules you consciously and unconsciously had to observe when you wrote articles, poems, stories and books, are vanishing, the borders of what is literature and what is not become more vague. I must say I like such a situation. I am accustomed to fuzzyness, to the fog and mist that is such an important background element in classical Chinese poetry. I am a bit like the recluse whom the poet (maybe himself) visited, but didn't find at home. I haven't found myself at home, I'm wandering around in my own little homeland that is nowhere and everywhere. The first chapter of Zhuangzi, translated by Burton Watson as "Free and easy wandering". Writing, making literature is becoming for me such a free and easy wandering too. From idea to idea, from image to image, from philosophy to philosophy, religion to religion, language to language.


Dolce vita. What could be a better example of it than the life of a small beetle, Phyllopertha horticola who spends part of its life inside rose blossoms, eats rose petals,sleeps and makes love inside the blossom.


I am dumbfounded and disgusted of what has happened to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who is now serving his ten to twenty five years prison term in Michigan for helping people who wanted that somebody help them to end their intolerable suffering if there was no other way to do it than euthanasia. In the last issue of the New York Review of Books (Vol. XLVIII, Number 11 - July 5, 2001)we can read his letter to the Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and a two notes by Mike Wallace. Enough to make clear the tragic abusurdity of what has happened. Mike Wallace doesn' miss the chance given by the recent execution of the mass murderer Timothy McVeigh. In contrast to the press star McVeigh, Dr. Kevorkian is not allowed to make any statements to the press, and spends his time in a small penitentiary isolated from people. I have always considered the right to die to be one of the very basic human rights and helping those who are willing - and have serious reasons to be willing - to die one of our obligations. I think life in itself is not a value, life is like a vessel, a vase where we can keep valuable things. If this becomes impossible, and as we are unable to change the vessel, to choose for ourselves another body, another life, sometimes death, breaking the vessel is the only way to preserve our dignity and self-respect, the only way to save a person from needless and endless suffering that would deprave him of both. I hope that if I will not have to endure such a suffering as some of my relatives and ancestors, but if it happens, I hope that my friends and relatives will have the will and means to help me to leave this life and this body without too much tragedy. Euthanasia is an age-old practice, common to many peoples and cultures, in some of them assisting their old and decrepit parents to die was a sacred obligation of younger people. Yes, I know perfectly well the arguments of the opponents of euthanasia. We know too well what happened to tens of thousands of handicapped people in Europe under the Nazi rule. But the fact that murdering helpless people was called by their executioners 'euthanasia' isn't a sufficient reason to criminalize real euthanasia, i.e. helping to die in peace those who really want to die. This real euthanasia is as far from murder than having sex with somebody who really wants it is from rape. I think the irrational fear of death, the tendency to isolate the death and the dying from life and the living, criminalization of suicide and euthanasia are a shame of the Western culture, a sign of what is sometimes called its masochistic tendencies. With all my deep respect and admiration for the present Pope John Paul II I still cannot agree with his vehement opposition to what he calls 'the Culture of death'. I humbly presume that death is an avoidable part of every culture, a part of our life. Death and life are both parts of our human condition, and necessarily we must find ways to cope with them in our cultures. And euthanasia has always been and will always be one such way. I find some features in American legislation and juridical practice inhuman and irrational. How can people who refuse to abolish the death penalty criminalize euthanasia? How can people who consider the right to have a weapon and to use it even against intruders consider Dr. Kevorkian a criminal?

According to the NYRB, Dr. Kevorkian's present address is

Egeler Correctional Facility

Jackson, Michigan, USA


*

I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of dying. I would agree with the ancient Greek writers and thinkers who wrote that the best of destinies for a man was not to be born. By the way, the Jewish great Talmudist Shammai was of the same opinion. What I am the most afraid of, what is disgusting to me is to witness the great dying that is going on all around the world. I have taken refuge in my country home, but this is an illusory refuge. Many of my friends and companions whom I am accustomed to meet every summer, do not come back: they have perished, they have been killed somewhere in Africa or Southern Europe. Dying out, extinction is such a terrible thing that I would really prefer to be dead in order not to see it, not to read every day some news about vanishing or menaced species. I sincerely hope that us, humans are not the last on the list of doomed species, that there will be birds singing, grasshoppers chirping and butterflies fluttering around after the human race has vanished from this planet.


*

Do animals have rights? As far as I know, most lawyers think they have not. However, the legislation of many countries criminalizes torturing and killing of certain animals, unless it is done by specialist in specialized institutions (slaughterhouses) or in special occasions like hunting or euthanasia. In our legislation, animals are not considered equal to us humans, and among animals themselves, some are definitely more equal than others. In practice, although not in theory, our pets often enjoy many privileges, and are treated as quasi-human beings, they have access to medical care, they have proper names, and, as a rule, share rooms with us. I would say that our pets also share some rights with us according to what could be called custom law, although this is not explicitly recognized in official legislation. Compared with pets, our domestic animals have very few rights, they are mercilessly exploited, kept in small cages and stalls, and basically treated not as living beings similar to us, but as resource that must be well managed. They don't have proper names and are kept in special rooms apart from us, and most of us are not even informed of how they live and die. Wild animals are often better treated: hunters in civilized countries have to observe many rules, both ethical and ecological. We may say that wild animals enjoy of a significant autonomy. Some of them are killed, but some are protected and taken care of as are the songbirds. There is a custom law that gives to many wild animals some collective rights, the right to exist as a species or a population. This custom law is often not observed, but in civilized countries it is more and more often taken into account. Powerful NGOs are working hard to put it into practice, and several governments and international bodies have taken steps to save endangered species, populations and ecosystems from extinction. However, here too, we humans are very selective. While we are making quite an effort to save the grey whale, the panda, the tiger and several other stars of animal kingdom, very little is done in favour of less spectacular and famous creatures, bugs, frogs, spiders and other small animals who have lived alongside us for millions of years, but whose habitats we are now destroying.
Our attitude to animals seems to be deeply influenced by many ancient preconceptions, sympathies, antipathies and beliefs. More unconsciously than consciously we divide the animals into nice and ugly, sympathetic and unsympathetic, we love some animals (e.g. pandas and koalas), and we loathe some, (e.g. worms and millipeds). We carry with us relics of archaic semiotics, oppositions we have inherited from our distant, perhaps even non-human ancestors. Is this attitude changing little by little? Perhaps, as there are less and less wild animals around, and most Europeans have no more reason to be afraid of bears and wolfes as people in my country were less than two hundred years ago, the last remaining big carnivores become something valuable, something worth tracking and photographing. But our sentimental attitudes to some big, furry and funny creatures living in national parks cannot make good the unethical handling of animals we eat, skin and exploit in many other ways. Even less can it make good our extermination of ecosystems where perhaps tens of thousands of species become extinct. But most of these species belong to the ones our archaic thinking considers marginal, unimportant or even loathsome. There are many politicians and businessmen who ridiculise ecologists who try to put brakes on their activities, don't recognize their right to exploit and develop all natural resources for the sake of a bug, a frog or an owl.
I think I prefer to live in the company of bugs, frogs and even mosquitoes and gadflies to living in the company of this kind of people. I prefer a bear living in my forest to G. W. Bush living there. Fortunately he lives far away from me, and I have a much greater chance to meet a bear here than president Bush.


July 29, 2001

It's Tisha b'Av today, the day the first and second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, the former by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the later in 70 C.E. In Jewish theology, especially in the Kabbalist thinking, these events were not simply national, but cosmic tragedies. Not only the Jewish people, but the God's Presence - Shekhina was forced into exile, the God was separated from the world, the esoteric from the exoteric, this from that, we can say that the world puzzle was shattered, its parts thrown apart. Everything is separated from its source, its deeper roots, its very soul. Everything is imprisoned into its self, into its faulty identity. This is something that has to be repaired, something only God and men together can repair. This is one way of interpreting the meaning of this day. But the Jews are not unique in their grief for the destroyed Temple and exiled Shekhina. So many peoples have lost their sacred places, so many temples have been destroyed, desecrated, so many sacred groves and trees chopped down, so many people killed or imprisoned for refusing to abandon the religion of their ancestors, of their kin. Here, in Estonia, the missionaries, priests and pastors have chopped down sacred trees for centuries, although some have still been preserved. There are legends about gods or spirits the Christian clerics forced to leave their trees, groves or places in homes where they had lived for generations. Thus the Christians have exiled our gods, our 'gods of the Earth'. They behaved as Romans who ploughed the site where the Temple once stood, built a temple of Jupiter on its ruins, and forbade to Jews entrance to the holy city. The missionaries have in this way separated earthly and godly, spiritual and material, mind and bofy, split the reality into two mutually alien, often conflicting halves. The real religion of the XXI century must try to overcome this fatal division, bring the gods of the earth back to the earth, gods of the forest back to the forest, spirit back to the matter, soul back to the body. Our land, our earth cannot last much longer without its gods, our bodies cannot last much longer without the soul, we cannot live for much longer this life of zombies. We have lost our gods and our souls, we must summon them back, shamans, poets, priests must call them back from their exile. Their exile has been, is our exile too.


Berlusconi's challenge and answers to it

Silvio Berlusconi's remarks about the supermacy of Western Christian civilization over the Islamic civilization are ignorant. Speaking of civilizations we must not forget their history, their ups and downs. Looking on the Christian-post-Christian world in such a way we see that there was a time when the Muslims had all the reasons to consider the Europeans, Franks as they called them, uncivilized, stinking and aggressive barbarians. Many achievements of the Hellenistic culture that the Christian West had destroyed or forgotten were preserved in the Islamic world, in Baghdad, Egypt or Córdoba, be it the works of Greek philosophers, physicians, astronomers or simply the Roman baths. Thus in the past. Nowadays the situation is different: the achievements of the Western civilizations are admired, hated, imitated and opposed everywhere. Many people from all over the world, including some islamic fundamentalists fighting against the Western influences and pro-Western governments in their countries have found refuge in the godless West. We have many reasons to protest against Berlusconi. But I think that the best arguments against his views are not protests but such an argument would be an example of a democratic, tolerant, prosperous and stable Islamic nations. So far it is not easy to find such a nation. Perhaps one day it will come into existence, maybe one day many people from the West will try to settle in Arab countries, Iran or Pakistan where life is more free, interesting and creative than in Europe or North America. It is possible, but it remains to be seen.

In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of Sept. 24 2001 I read:
the famous composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has reportedly told that the attacks against the World Trade Centre were for him "the greatest work of art". This remark confirms my worst suspicions: the mass murders and other hideous crimes of the twentieth (and now also the twenty-first century) have an aesthetic dimension, some crime against humanity may have artistic motivation. The unbridled, sovereign imagination yearns for sovereign power, dictatorial power over men and Nature. Both the artist and his/her public need powerful images. And the images of jetliners crushing into skyscrapers are powerful, fascinating images. Similar to the image of the explosion of a nuclear bomb.
The modern aestheticism is iconoclastic and its declared aim is to break, abolish taboos. It has successfully broken nearly all the aesthetic, artistic taboos observed by the artists of the past. Now it is trying to break some ethical taboos, taboos related with the values of life and death, suffering and happiness. It has been moderately successful. One doesn't need to be a prophet to predict that sooner or later some valiant artist, critic or art theorist will declare that the greatest works of art of the XX century were the gas chambers, crematoria, and the Holocaust itself was a gigantesque performance. As the Soviet labour camps with their heaps of frozen corpses, as the sadistic rituals of everyday life and death in these camps. Aestheticised human suffering ceases to be suffering for the artistically minded. For the people forced to participate in the sadistic performances of the Nazis and Bolsheviks suffering remained suffering. Aestheticism is egocentric, the artist, the great personality is not interested in the suffering of others. Or perhaps the suffering becomes for him/her just an aesthetic phenomenon, a detail in the great composition, something that must be added to the picture to make it more powerful, more impressive...
Osama bin Ladin writes poetry. In the letters sent to his disciples who blew up the WTC there are many poetical quotations from the Quran, and some other verses. The fanatical killers killed in the name of God, loving and merciful God. Some people have killed in the name of art. Sometimes people can took one for another or vice versa. Beware of the deeply religious, beare of great poets and artists, beware of great works of art!



But what does the Devil's advocate think?


But if the Taliban and Usama bin Ladin are right from the ecological and futurological perspective? They don't probably think this way, but the attack against the WTC has had two positive environmental effects: the consumers in the US consume less, there is less waste and less pollution, there is also much less air traffic that is a terrible source of pollution and a terrible waste of non-renewable fossil fuel. For an instant, people are living in a more frugal, more sparing way, the production and consumption orgy that has been such an important part of the American way of life, has got a blow, has lost its self-confidence. Isn't it just something we all badly need? Aren't the islamic fanatics, after all, really messengers of God, bearers of a warning message to the powerful and wasteful of the Earth that they must change their way of life, come to reason? Isn't the way of life of the poor peasants of Afghanistan a better way of life from the environmental point of view? It is sustainable and stable, it can endure decades of war, destruction, banditry while the American way of life is seriously shaken by the destruction of a couple of buildings and the death of several thousand people. Isn't Afghanistan under the Taliban rule an example we should follow if we really do want to have a future? Isn't the lure of the American way of life leading the planet toward a disaster thousands of times worse than the disaster caused by the terrorists? Isn't entertainment, especially the TV abolished and prohibited by the Taliban one of the most dangerous things in the present world just because it propagates the most wasteful way of life?
There are many more such questions the Devil's advocate can (and has to) ask. But the Devil has his or her own Devil and this Devil has his or her advocate too. And this another Devil's advocate has some questions too. Haven't millions of people been killed, tortured, starved and forced to flee in the name of a better, a radiant future? Have these mass murders achieved anything? Has the struggle of the Communists against Capitalism and the Western way of life had any long-term success? The destruction of the WTC certainly has a short-term effect on the Western economy and consumerism, but does it have any long-term effect? Won't the scared people sooner or later return to their consumption orgy, to buying and wasting more, to destroying the environment in the name of 'development' and 'creating new jobs'? Isn't the only way to change our mad world, to cure it from its madness to let it continue its orgy to the bitter end? Talking reason doesn't help much, can we then hope that we can cure madness with madness? Aren't the islamic terrorists really reinforcing America they are fighting, consolidating its hegemony as the only superpower and the policeman of the world with the willing or unwilling approval of all major powers including the ones that before the attacks in the US were very critical of its policies? Haven't bin Ladin and his disciples made a big gift to the conservatives in the US, silencing the critics of its way of life and its policies both at home and abroad?
This dialogue between the Devil's and Devil's Devil's advocates can go on, there is no lack of arguments for both sides. But we cannot follow them much longer.



Being on a short visit in Finland I saw from the local TV an anti-war demonstration in Helsinki. On one of the slogans I read 'Bush's war. I thought I have never been a war activist, but this time I can't be a peace activist either. Whether we will it or not, Bush's war is our war too, and Bush's enemy is our enemy too. I have no sympathy for Bush, but I know that if he is defeated, or rather if bin Ladin and his supporter win it, it will be a disaster for us all. Thus I feel sorry for many of my friends who are pacifists and peace activists, but I must say that America must win this war...


A BLACK SCENARIO that possibly and partly becomes more probable as the American-British war against the Taliban seems to become bogged down and the irritation and rage amongst the population in Pakistan and other Muslim nations is in the increase. What can happen? First of all, a revolt in Pakistan toppling the present military regime. In the following chaos the pro-Taliban forces succeed in gaining power in many regions and getting in their hands the Pakistani nuclear facilities. India declares that it cannot stay idle by, and sends its military to try to neutralize, seize or destroy these facilities. A major war breaks out. India crushes the resistance of the Pakistani regular army, but has a lot of trouble with armed resistance groups and guerillas both in conquered areas and at home in regions inhabited by Muslims. The Muslims all over the world are upset and demand that their governments interfere. The Islamic countries declare their support to the Islamic resistance in Pakistan and demand resolute action from the West. The tensions between India and China increase, but don't lead to an armed conflict. China uses strong expressions, but in fact remains neutral. The West cannot persuade India to retire its forces. Some influential Muslim organizations supported by some governments call all Muslims to a djihad against India, but also against Israel and the West. Some dirty bombs are exploded in Calcutta, Bombay and Tel Aviv. Israel responds by attacking military installations in Iraq and occupying some Palestinian towns. The Islamic countries issue an ultimatum to the West to stop Israeli aggression or face an oil embargo. After some more bombings in Israel and Israeli retaliatory air raids Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait and Iran stop oil shipments to the West, Egypt closes the Suez canal to American and European shipping. Some big oil tankers are sabotaged leading to damage and huge pollution in the English Channel and in the New York area. The traces of the terrorists lead to Saudi Arabia that refuses to collaborate with the West. Another dirty bomb is exploded in Haifa. Israel sends its troops to Lebanon and occupies the Bekaa valley. The Arab and several Muslim countries call for a general mobilization against Israel. Some missiles with radioactive warheads fall on Israeli towns. Israel attacks and destroys Syrian frontline positions, airfields and missile batteries. Saudi Arabia and Iran send their forces to combat what they call Israeli aggression. America and the EU demand immediate cessation of hostilities, this call is ignored by both sides. An American base in Saudi Arabia is attacked and destroyed by Al-Qaida fighters. CNN shows pictures of naked corpses and cut-off heads of some American military. The Americans land in Arabia and take over some oil fields. St.Peter's cathedral in Rome is destroyed by a powerful blast, many people are killed, the Pope is seriously wounded. Russia begins an airlift of military equipment to India. Both Russia and America negotiate with China asking it not to interfere. Several thousand ethnic Chinese, most of them Christians are killed in Indonesia. The British and French join the American forces in Arabia taking over more oilfields and refineries, many of them have been destroyed by Saudis. Iraq and Kuwait send their troops to help the Saudis. A dirty bomb is exploded in Paris killing many people and seriously contaminating the whole city centre. An unidentified plane drops a powerful bomb on the holiest place of the Muslims, the Kaaba, killing many people and totally destroying the monument. Pogroms and clashes between Muslims and Christians erupt nearly everywhere. Most of the Arab peninsula is occupied by the Allied forces who meet fierce but not well organized resistance in many places. Small units of Indonesian irregulars invade Papua New Guinea and land in some places in Australia sabotaging installations and attacking people. The permanent members of the Security council agree in the necessity of sending United Nations troops to zones of major conflict. As there are few neutral nations, these troops consist mostly of Chinese, Japanese, Tai and some African and Latin American forces. The West sees the forces as an instrument of assuring the Chinese domination in Asia but overstretched and met with increasing criticism at home have little else to do than to agree. The war in Afghanistan continues, bin Ladin and his faithful are still at large pursuing their war against America. The world tourist industry and all airlines are virtually bankrupt, but the BBC as well as the major news agencies do very well. The Sony new game console is a huge success, and the demand for whisky, vodka and other strong drinks is on steady increase. Etc.


A major confrontation between what is called the West and the what is called the Islamic world seems more and more possible. If it becomes a reality, the West needs allies. It has a an enormous edge in technology, but lacks manpower, lacks fighters. Accordingly, the Americans and Europeans must try to get support from populous friendly countries. In practice, it can mean only India and/or China. Both of them have some motivation to support this effort, because both are fearful of the rising Islamic extremism in the Middle East and Central Asia. Even the support of Russia in such a war of civilizations is possible, although Russia is no more a big power nor a populous country. This means that instead of desperately courting the Saudis and Pakistanis, the West should try to establish an alliance with India, China and Russia. And get rid of the Pakistani nuclear capabilities before it's too late.


Freely translated, the Buddha is The One who Understood or the Man of Understanding. A bodhisattva is a Person of Understanding.


I feel I become more and more alienated from religions that want us to become supermen, saints, ascetics or heroes. I feel more and more sympathy for religions that want us simply to be human beings, to live our life in a human way and enjoy it. There are saints, heroes and ascetics, but it would be a big mistake to put pressure on people to imitate them. In this stupid and inhuman world of ours even being human is sometimes very difficult, needs a big, even a heroic effort. Sometimes being a man is more difficult, more demanding than being a superman.


Isn't it strange that in our culture the declared aim of many people is fighting and abolishing taboos and borders. Taboos are an absolutely essential part of any culture, and borders are an essential part of life on earth, be it human or non-human. The division of mankind into nations, cultures, tribes, states is analogous to the division of living beings into species, families, populations. Without it the life on Earth would not have survived. I wrote a longer essay based on these thoughts intending to read it on the forum of the Universal Academy of Cultures. Unfortunately our meeting ran short of time, and I couldn't read it nor summarize it into something brief, but still intelligible. I put my paper on my website: thus it is accessible to those interested.

Globalization: for Nature or against Nature ?

1. The word 'globalization' has a very vague meaning, thus it is not easy to understand what the demonstrants are demonstrating against or the politicians and economists advocating. The word is an attempt to describe the advancing integration, but also standardization of the world, vanishing of borders and shortening of distances. But globalization is also the growth of corporate power, the expansion of multinational companies.
2. The problem with globalization is that - as many phenomena - it has never been planned in advance. What we are witnessing today and calling globalization is the result of the invisible hand of market and technological forces that have given us both technical means and motivation to move towards a more integrated and uniform world. Globalization is something that we have met in our hunt for bigger profits and new gadgets, as well as new weapons.
3. Globalization is practically a creation of only one of the many cultures and societies of the planet - the Western culture (or civilization), first of all - of Europeans and North Americans. This means that for many other peoples globalization is nothing else than the expansion of the West, a continuation of a process that began with the Crusades and great geographical discoveries. It means spreading Western products and Western way of life.
4. Such a process is not unique in history: the planet has witnessed many similar processes of cultural expansion in the past: the expansion of the Sumerian-Akkadian culture, hellenistic culture, Chinese Han culture and Arabic-Islamic culture. All these processes were connected with building of empires, subjugation of other peoples. The beginning of the Western expansion has been similar, the Europeans too created their empires. However, there is a difference between the big empires of the past and the present world. Nowadays the expansion is primarily not political or religious, but economic. The merchant, the manager, the banker has replaced the soldier and the missionary. The power of money has replaced the power of the gun, advertizing has replaced sermons, pin-up girls have replaced icons.
5. Thus globalization also spreads the Western modern system of values, is based on what Ernest Gellner has called 'consumerist scepticism'. This system of values and world view is not acceptable to many people in other parts of the world, especially in the Islamic countries, but even in the West it is not approved by many dissidents, as for example the anti-globalization activists, the Greens and members of some traditionalist religious communities.
6. In the empires of the past, unprecedented power was concentrated into the hands of their rulers, kings and emperors. This was, first of all, power over people. The emerging global empire of our age is characterised, first of all, by an unprecedented concentration of power over nature, natural resources into the hands of the modern kings and emperors - governments, dictators, but also CEOs of big companies. On the modern world scene, the traditional statesmen have to share power with the modern businessmen.
7. Often these two types of power are interconnected, even mingled. Big business finances and supports rulers who often come from its ranks and remain loyal to its interests. In both financial and political domains, the power becomes concentrated into the hands of one or a couple of superpowers, megacompanies and corporations. The system mankind has created is to a great extent ruled by its own logic, it has become a god we must serve and worship.
8. Following the Finnish philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright we can call this god of our times technosystem. Its logic is the inexorable logic of growth, efficiency, economy and concentration. Globalization is a necessary, unavoidable logical step in the history of this technosystem whose symbol was the World Trade Centre in New York, destroyed by the islamic kamikazes.
9. We human beings and everthing we create are necessarily part of a larger system that is most often called Nature. Nature has undergone a process of evolution of probably more than 10 billion years. Its evolution as its present functioning has followed a certain logic. This logic has also determined the evolution of life including that of mankind as all other living things. One basic element of this logic is that the development and functioning of a sybsystem, for example an ecosystem or a species must conform to the logic of Nature, otherwise it will not survive. Nature is a system that can survive even if several or many of its subsystems, be it species, populations or societies (including our own) become extinct.
10. Life is a state of dynamic balance, it is a self-regulating homoeostatic process. But this homoeostasis is not perfect because of its dynamism. It contains the features that can lead to self-destruction, primarily through the destruction of the environment. This can happen to animal populations. This has happened to human populations including probably some great civilizations of the past in Mesopotamia, Northern India and Central America and on the Easter Island. Despite this, humanity as a whole has survived, thanks to the fact that it too was organized in a 'natural' way, being divided into relatively autonomous tribes, societies and cultures. Even if civilizations perished, barbarians and savages survived.
11. This means that parts, subsystems of Nature are not necessarily capable of homoeostasis; Life, the living Nature is homoeostatic as a whole. Nature is a self-regulating, self-preserving system that consists of subsystems that are often not self-regulating.
12. Life achieves its homoeostasis, is capable of self-regulation because of its enormous diversity. It consists of millions of species, populations and billions of organisms. The homoeostasis is the result of their interplay.
13. During the last thousands of years human beings have achieved an uprecedented command over their environment, especially over other living beings. We are less and less subjects to the natural homoeostasis, to the regulating rules of Nature. At present, mankind is drastically changing the Nature itself due to the demographic explosion and the increasing exploitation of natural resources.
14. Particularly human activities are diminishing the diversity of Nature and accordingly impairing its self-regulating mechanisms. As the result, Nature both animate and inanimate is becoming more unstable, prone to bigger vacillations.
15. As we humans are always a part of Nature, we cannot escape these vacillations, we are more exposed to droughts, storms, famines and epidemics. The world has never been an especially friendly place for us, now it is becoming more unfriendly. We have succeeded in building our oases in the middle of its turbulence, but there are not enough of them and keeping them needs more and more effort and resources.
16. From this point of view, the process called globalization is a double-edged sword. Insofar it is connected with concentration of economical power and resources, with increase in uniformity, less restrictions to mass travel and transportation of goods over state borders, it contributes to potential instability of Nature and society.
17. Examples are not difficult to draw. The recent outburst of foot and mouth and the mad cow disease in Europe are a direct result of concentration of animals in big farms and transportation of cattle and cattle products from one country and region to another. The spread of damaging computer viruses is the result of the de facto monopoly of Microsoft programs (As I don't use them, I have so far had no problems with computer viruses).
18. The terrorist attack on the Pentagon and WTC has shown us once more how vulnerable the modern world can be. The skyscrapers lodging thousand of offices with tens of thousands of employees and visitors were an extreme example of concentration of power and decision-making, but also of economy of space in the capital of the Western world. Here the stability was clearly sacrificed to efficiency and economy with a catastrophic result. Such places of high concentration of political and economic power as headquarters of big companies, parliaments and government residences or huge factories having the monopoly of some products will certainly be targets of future terrorist attacks. Concentration, mass production makes products cheaper, but increases the possibility that one error, one toxic substance, one computer virus will have devastating effect across the globe. If the terrorists had struck the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, it would have paralyzed the development of the monopolistic MS Windows software. In contrast, the development of the rival Linux operational system that is wholly decentralized, cannot be seriously damaged by any terrorist attack.
19. Physical concentration of people and facilities, monopolies, mass travel and unsrestricted transportation of goods are a potential source of danger in the unpredictable and insecure world. And in many cases, as in the examples above, these processes have clearly surpassed all reasonable limits. This is true of the Western way of life, especially of its American variety as a whole. This way of life has effectively abolished most of the cultural diversity of the world, spreading from country to country, continent to continent, making more and more people dependant of the products of a few corporations (Microsoft, Boeing, Intel and others). Now we know better than ever that all people of the world cannot be lodged into one skyscraper, but there are politicians, missionaries, businessmen and writers who are making an effort to lodge all humankind into one culture, one religion, one language, one system of values.
20. Cultures, languages and religions are survival strategies in a world that is very much a Darwinian one, and if we wipe out most of them, we diminish our chances of survival in extreme conditions, be it in a new ice age or in a world shattered by a new world war. We should be more aware that world wars too have been made possible by the globalization, by the worldwide processes of integration and concentration.
21. Is the globalization then an evil that we should fight against, a fatal error in the history of mankind and perhaps even of Nature itself? This is possible, if the negative aspects of globalization prevail, if it means more concentration of economical and political power, abolition of biological and cultural diversity in the name of economical efficiency. But there are some other ways open to globalization. In theory it's perfectly possible to have globalization that preserves most of the diversity and instead of concentration supports dispersion, decentralization.
22. This is a chance given us by the combination of the advances of modern information technology with the existing cultural diversity and strong bond of many people to their culture as well as to their home and homeland. We could have a world where people prefer to live in small communities, many of them in the countryside, cultivating their gardens, buying mostly locally produced food and other essential consumer goods, and not travelling much. At the same time are closely interconnected with other people all around the world thanks to the efficient means of communication grown out of the present internet. This world would in fact be two worlds, in one of them space and place are of central importance, in another there is no space, no distance. People live in both of these worlds, partly in their home village, partly in the global village, the cyberspace. In this utopian world there are many borders and restrictions to the movement of people and goods from region to region, but little restrictions to the free flow of information.
23. This hypothetical utopia is close to the one expressed already in ancient times by one of the first theoricians of self-regulation and decentralization, the half-mythical Chinese thinker Laozi. As to the political organization of the possible diverse, dispersed but still globalized world, it should be a decentralized power network. It remains to be said that the first man who created such an organization, not a state but a network of communities was nobody else than the Indian Gautama Buddha, one of the great organization men of the world history.
24. One of the few ways of life that have proved stable, highly adaptive and capable of surviving in very adverse conditions is the traditional peasant way of life, the traditional peasant culture, be it European, ancient Peruvian, Chinese, Indian, African or Central Asian.
25. We have no reasons to idealize the peasant life that has never been idyllic, although it has often been idealized. The classical Chinese literature has many clear analogies to the antique and later Western Arcadian, bucolic and pastoral motives. It is harder to find in traditional Chinese literature contempt for the 'idiocy of the rural life' of the Marxist tradition, but I'm sure it can be found too. Town, at least city is usually a more interesting place than village. But village is simply much more adaptive than town, and because of that village has served as a refuge, a shelter, a place where people could return after disasters that destroyed towns.
26. My first childhood memories are memories of bombardment, taking refuge in shelters, but also of fleeing to the countryside, to our relatives living there. This probably saved my life because the house where we lived in 1944 was hit and burnt with all our belongings. But our relatives could give us shelter and feed us. Where can nowadays flee people living in cities, in the high density residential areas or close to risky industrial plants and other installations? The modern civilization is destroying the village, the traditional peasant life, the farm, the garden, the field. The modern agriculture is becoming more and more efficient, but also more and more dependant on the whole fabric of the modern society, industry and transportation. We can say that it is also dependant on the conviction (belief) that no major disasters are possible, that the emancipated nations need no refuges, no shelters, no local-regional self-sufficiency, that the history as a Darwinian process of selection has ended.
27. The tragic events of Sept. 11 indicate that this can well be an illusory belief. It's commonplace to compare the present Western world with the Roman Empire. After becoming rich and powerful, Rome got rid of its peasantry, its agriculture becoming based on latifundia. A lot of grain was imported to Italy from Egypt. The Empire wasn't a nation of peasants. The nations who conquered it and the nations that later emerged from its ruins were nations of peasants. After the Empire had fallen, people grew grain and kept cattle on the Forum and other expances of the eternal city that had for centuries ceased being a city.
28. The pendulum of history has already many times swung between town and village. Isn't it wise to presume that this will not happen again? Isn't it wise to abandon a tradition, a way of life and a know-how that has helped us to overcome big crises? Perhaps we should give some financial and moral support to people who are willing to preserve this tradition, to return to field and garden as is a traditional saying in Chinese, immortalized by the great poet Tao Yuan-ming.


There is something in the present anti-americanism and anti-war movement that disturbs me. Perhaps it is the idea that it's possible to make politics with clean hands, that politics can be a humane undertaking, that one can be successful in politics without being sometimes clearly unethical, without lying, making war, suppressing discontent, etc. Politics is a power game, and in power games unethical behaviour can often give you some advantage. Politics that is not a power game is an impossibility, a contradictio in adjecto. If we do not accept power games, we should be against any power, we should renounce the world, become monks, hermits, ascetics. But even then we cannot be sure that politics, the power games of our dirty world won't touch us. As we know, monasteries become important players in the power games of the past. There is another way: to work inside the power games, inside politics, trying to make it a bit more humane, more ethical. The same is true about the war too. After all, there are worse things than 'classical' war: life in some totalitarian countries (Cambodia under the Khmer rouge regime, North Korea, Soviet Union during the worst period of Stalinist terror) was worse than war, and people in these countries were sometimes waiting for a war that would liberate them from the horrors of a totalitarian peace. And although it may sound cynical, even a war can be more humane due to the efforts of many politicians, lawyers and even military. In the past, the winners, as a rule, looted the conquered towns and often murdered and turned to slaves all its inhabitants. Nowadays this is no more accepted by the international community, and sometimes, although still very rarely, the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity are punished. The bombardment of Serbia and Afghanistan by the Americans and Europeans was much less murderous than the bombardment of German cities during the Second World War. This is a modest achievement, but nevertheless it is an achievement, a sign of progress. However, progress, especially in things ethical, is very fragile, it can easily be destroyed, as happened in Germany between 1934 and 1944, and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, or forced to retrograde, as happened in the McCarthyist America. Thus, all people of good intentions whould always be on their guard. Nowadays, their is a danger, that under the pretext of combatting terrorism, some states, first of all, the current conservative administration in the US, will clamp down on all opposition to their policies. The introduction of the military tribunals reminds me strongly of the infamous 'troikas' in the Stalinist USSR, and can become a grave danger to civil liberties. As to the war in Afghanistan, there seems to be a danger that the US air force can make use of terrorist tactics, bombarding civilian objects, forcing the local leaders to take action against the Taliban. This is something that must be vehemently criticized and opposed, here is a job for war correspondents.
We can't say that the world cannot be improved, but it can be improved only by small steps. To demand the world to change instantly or to try to force it to change abruptly is foolishness, sometimes criminal foolishness.


Suddenly I realized that we white people are somehow like these blind and whitish fish or salamanders living in deep and dark caves who have lost their pigmentation. We too are a population living in extreme conditions and have had to sacrifice our complexion and several other features.


I am not a good man of literature, a literary person. But I could have become a good folklorist: folk lore has interested me always more than literature, belles-lettres. I even read literature as folk-lore. If it really interests me, I read it, otherwise I just read it enough to understand the fabric, the way it has been put together. Then I may use it, borrow from it some patterns to write something myself. It's not surprising that I love so much the Chinese traditional poetry. It has never severed its links with folk lore, has preserved some basic patterns of oral poetry. Li Bo was called an immortal fallen on earth. Sometimes I feel I am a traditional Chinese intellectual fallen here, in this time and place where I don't feel myself at home.


The older I grow the more I appreciate the aurea mediocritas that has corresponding ideas in East Asia too. There is no good or bad per se, extremes are bad. Too little water is drought, too much water is inundation. Too little money is misery, too much money is affluence, and both are bad for us human beings. I am glad I am neither poor nor rich, I can have everything I and my family needs, but not everything we wish. The modern capitalist ideology has abolished the distinction between needs and desires, the advertizing machine is drumming to us that we need what we want. This wrong idea is destroying both our psychological balance and the ecological balance of Nature.


The Story of Jesus

I am not a theologian, nor a specialist in the history or culture of the ancient Near East. Thus I am not well qualified to write about Jesus. There are, however, some reasons why I still decided to write. I am a writer, this means I may have some talent for understanding other people and a feeling for what a good story is. And a good story is always a true story, has a truth to tell. This truth is not propagandistic, a true story is not propagating or advertizing something. The story of Jesus, as it is told in the Gospels and in churches, is not a true story, not good literature, but a propagandistic, apologetic story.

We can find good stories in the Bible too, as for example the stories in the Book of Samuel and the Books of Kings. What I would like to have, is a true story of Jesus. Not his true history that many generations of theologians and historians have tried to put together, but a true story, a true work of literature that could tell more of Jesus than many scholarly books. I feel I cannot write such a story now, but I will nevertheless try to sketch its outlines, give my point of view on who Jesus was, what he did and what he wanted. This story will be different, but not too different from the stories told by the Evangelists, it will just not be apologetic, it will try to see Jesus as a human being. In my opinion, his human-ness means that he had human emotions, felt fear, anger and love, was prone to changes of mood, made errors, had his human weaknesses. I don't know whether Jesus was divine, anyhow I cannot write a story of God. God has no stories, he cannot be a hero of any story, he has no motives, no psychology, at least in our understanding of these words.

I have read some books written on Jesus and Christianity by well qualified scholars. One of them tried to prove that Christianity like most of the Near Eastern religions were inspired by the visions induced by the fly agaric, began as mushroom cults. The other scholar tried to prove that Jesus survived his crucifixion, escaped from Palestine and lived until the end of his days in Srinagar, Kashmir where he is also buried. The third tried to prove that Jesus wasn't killed on the cross either, that he survived and lived later in Rome, had a family and some offspring. There are books that try to prove that Jesus fought against racism, theocracy and male chauvinism, that he was a cynic philosopher, an anti-colonial activist or an agrarian socialist. Every fashionable current of thought seems to be keen to discover or invent its own Jesus. My ideas about Jesus are far more conventional, although hardly Christian. For me, as for most Jews, Jesus wasn't and isn't a Messiah, he was just Jesus, most probably just a man, although an extraordinary man. Perhaps Jesus as we know him from the Gospels didn't even exist, but as a literary and mythological figure he has existed already for a long time and will continue to exist, be it in religion or in literature. But in my opinion he has existed as a hero of bad literature. Perhaps he deserves to be transferred to good literature. Some writers, as Schalom Asch and lately Jose Saramago have tried to do that, writing novels about Jesus. I am just sketching the outlines of his story as I think it could be told, and perhaps even could have happened.

Practically the only sources on Jesus are the Gospels including some apocryphic ones, especially the so-called Gospel according Thomas discovered about 1947 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. But these and other apocryphic sources, as e.g. some sayings attributed to Jesus in Islamic sources, tell very little about his life. The apocryphic Gospels dealing with his life are full of legends and unreliable. Thus we have only the four canonical Gospels. They tell a lot about him, but we can also pay attention to what the Gospels don't tell. For example, they are more or less silent about Jesus' childhood and youth except some very general phrases about his successes in learning. But as to details, the writers have to jump from his birth to the beginning of his career as a wandering teacher, healer and miracle- worker.

As a writer, I cannot accept the genealogies of Jesus as given by Matthew and Luke. Here, as in many other places, the evangelists have tried to do their best to use all the material that seems to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, Christ as predicted by the Jewish tradition. Doing this, they overdid. They misused the Prophets and other sources. The fact is that the prophecies don't fit well. They are, as a rule quite vague, and, if taken literally, sound especially unconvincing as the story of the virgin birth or the story of Joseph and Mary coming from Nazareth to Bethelehem, David's town. Jesus himself seems not to have paid attention to his genealogy or to the details of his birth. All this is probably the result of the zeal of the evangelists. The result is too much literalism, too much propaganda, too much legend-making, too many artificial parallels taken out of context with the only aim to prove that he was the Messiah predicted by the prophetic books of the Jews.

Where do the stories of the miraculous birth come from? A Messiah should have been born from David's kin without any interference from the Holy Spirit. I think of two possible reasons of the birth legendarium. Possibly Joseph wasn't Jesus's father, he had married a woman pregnant with a child of another man. This fact could have left a mark on Jesus and caused him some trouble from his earliest childhood on. We can imagine that he was called a bastard, there could have been many guesses about who was his real father. The especially malignant neighbours perhaps invented the story of the Roman soldier. But fortunately, as Mary was a Jew, Jesus was considered a Jew too, and it meant he was at least formally accepted in the community, was circumcised and most probably got some religious instruction, although we have no precise idea of what kind of instruction this could have been. But it is a reasonable guess that his behaviour was somehow influenced by the fact that he was or was considered a bastard that certainly put some restrictions on him as the member of the community.

The other source of the stories of Jesus' miraculous birth is probably the folkloric tradition, mostly of non-Jewish origin that was in vogue in the antique world. For the hellenic world, there was no unsurmountable gap between men and gods, and many mythological heroes as well as mighty rulers were considered as having divine ancestry. Some such myths were later adopted by imperial propaganda: Caesar was proclaimed to be a descendant of Venus and both he and many of his successors were supposed to have become gods after their deaths. The idea of Jesus as both a man, son of God and God sounds to me a borrowing from the Hellenic tradition, something radically alien to the Jewish tradition that has refused to accept it until the present day.

It would be very interesting to know more of the life in Nazareth about the year 0 A.D. Who were the leaders of the local Jewish community? Who were the teachers, rabbis, to which school did they belong? Which were the relations between the various Jewish sects in Galilee at that time and which were the relations between the Jews and other communities? Unfortunately we know very little of this.

Nowadays the Christian Churches tell us that Jesus was a Jew, perhaps even an orthodox Jew. At least formally he was a Jew, but we cannot be sure about what his orthodoxy could have meant. At that time the basic patterns of Jewish observance were already fixed and several groups, including the pharisees observed them strictly and continued to elaborate the rules of observance. Some groups, as the Essenes, had their own, much stricter rules. Jesus is in constant conflict with the Pharisees, sometimes also with the Sadduceans; he seems not to approve the terrorism of the Zealots and Sicarians, and says no word at all about the Essenes. This has sometimes been interpreted as his sympathy for the latter. I have doubts on this interpretation. If Jesus openly and sometimes demonstratively opposes the rules established by the Pharisees, we have little reason to think that he could have approved the even more rigid rules of the Essenes and other similar communities. Jesus seems to have a special antipathy for the Pharisees, and his interpretation of the rules is lax, liberal and sometimes astonishingly rationalistic. I would like to know whether his liberalism is the result of his convictions and belief or it is more influenced by his conflict with the Pharisees: he is liberal because he wants to antagonize and irritate them.

If the latter is true, we could ponder over the reasons of his deep antipathy for the men whose views in many respects were more akin to his than those of the other sects. The Jesus of the Sermon of the Mount and the Jesus calling us to love our neigbours is strikingly similar to the rabbis of his time, especially those from the school of Hillel. Why has Jesus not a single word of recognition for the sages who as him considered love to be the foundation of all right behaviour? It is hard to think that such utterances were later removed from the Gospels: the existing texts seem to prove clearly that Jesus hated the Pharisees and spared no occasion to demonstrate this hatred, sometimes even in a mean way, as e.g. when he and his disciples picked ears of grain and ate them on Sabbath. Of course, the Pharisees had little sympathy for Jesus either, although they had no power and possibly no interest to persecute and execute him. This was the privilege of the establishment, the Temple priests, King Herod and his son Antipas (in Galilee). And, of course, the Romans. These were people who later let him to be executed, it seems strange that he makes very few critical remarks about them sparing all his anger for the men whose main aim was to study the Torah, and who sometimes were in conflict with the hellenized religious and secular power holders.

Perhaps the roots of this conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees were not only ideological, but also personal. Perhaps it had something to do with the birth and origins of Jesus, perhaps with his family. We can, for example, think that some teachers didn't accept Jesus as their pupil because they considered him a bastard. There are, however, other possibilities. The image of Jesus as god or demi-god (son of God) is a kind of intrusion of the ancient Near Eastern myth or more recent hellenistic idea of deification of heroes and rulers into Judaism that had so far rejected all such ideas. There seems to be sufficient proof that Jesus considered himself a divine person and demanded from others that they believe in him as one believes in God or a god. How and when did Jesus come to the conclusion that he was God, God's son and also the Messiah (according to the Jewish tradition, the Messiah shouldn't have been God's son, but a descendant of David)? Did he believe in it since his earliest childhood? Did he become convinced of his divinity at a later age, perhaps as the result of a vision, a religious experience?

Perhaps we should think more seriously about the beautiful legend connected with the birth of Jesus, namely the story of the three magi, three oriental astrologers who came to Galilee in search of a future king destined to be born somewhere in the region. Perhaps the story is doesn't fully belong to the realm of folklore, but has a grain of truth in it. Of course, the Near East at those times was full of astrologers, would-to-be kings and wonder-workers. Possibly some astrologers identified the baby Jesus as a future king or other kind of a VIP. Perhaps the parents of Jesus, and later himself accepted the story, as it helped them to overcome the problems connected with his real father. Then he could well have grown up with a conviction that he was a very special, perhaps even a divine person. We cannot exclude some influences from the non-Jewish people of Nazareth, and, if the story of the flight to Egypt has some truth in it, he and his parents had more contacts with foreign religious ideas and beliefs. In the talmudic tradition, Jesus is accused of having learnt magic in Egypt. If he learnt something there, it was possibly not magic but elements of a different religiosity that he didn't bother to hide and that could well have irritated the orthodox Jews.

In the Gospels we can find little information about Jesus studying the Torah or teaching it. Thus, it is perhaps not reasonable to call him a rabbi: a rabbi should have began teaching at an earlier age than Jesus, and without any special experience or ceremony. We don't know what did Jesus do until he met a man called John the Baptist and roughly at the same time possibly had a powerful religious experience that convinced him that his time had come. What we have here, is not unknown to the historians of religion: a religious awakening that completely changes the life of a person, makes of him a preacher, a leader, gives him the self-assurance and charisma he didn't possess until his awakening.

Such an awakening often alienates the person from his former social group, and leads him or her to find (or to found) a new one. This seems well to have been the case with Jesus. The beginning of his career is marked by conflicts: he is in quarrel with both the religious group he belonged to, and also with his family that didn't approve his new role. The main reason that led to conflict with his congregation seems to be his extreme self-confidence, not to say arrogance, although it is hard to imagine that the other Jews could have attempted to lynch him as told by Luke: any such act would have been a flagrant breach of the rules given by the Torah. Possibly he was just scolded and perhaps maltreated by the angered crowd.

According to the Gospel by John, the first miracle done by Jesus was the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Kana. The other Gospels don't mention this miracle, but all of them tell that after having been baptized and tempted by the Devil he began at once to work miracles, became a thaumaturge, an activity certainly disapproved by the Pharisees and probably mistrusted by the power-holders. In the ancient world, as later, in the Middle Ages, thaumaturgy was to some extent the privilege of the rulers, kings and emperors, a sign of their divinity. The appearance of a man who both worked miracles, and - as it was told - was to become a king, according to some predictions, clearly disturbed some members of the establishment. Here, perhaps the Pharisees, the learned, and the priests found some agreement: the man Jesus was dangerous and had to be kept under surveillance. The following is a tragic story, full of provocations, counterprovocations and accusations.

The conflict between Jesus and the religious establishment, the rich and the powerful points to something more than simply a dislike for the Pharisees, possibly originating in some childhood trauma. I feel there can be something connecting Jesus' antagonizing behaviour to one of his very first religious experiences, his meeting with the Devil. The Devil was certainly not a very important person for the Pharisees or the Temple priests, but seems to have been quite a popular one in the mythology of some Jewish sectarians as shown by their manuscripts and some other sources. The Devil, born and grown up on Iranian soil later wandered westward and became one of the main players in many cosmical dramas in the antique world. The Jews were not eager to accept foreign gods, but some of them accepted the Iranian Ahriman - Arimanios - Satanas. According to the Iranian mythology, the world we are living in is caught in a process of degradation, is becoming more and more material, evil and corrupt. Jesus seems to have thought in the same way when he speaks about the Devil as the "prince of this world".

In his view, the degradation of the world had gone so far that it had become essentially evil, ruled by dark forces. It meant at least two things. First: as the world couldn't become much worse, the turn, the radical apocalyptic transformation was near. This must change everything, turn everything upside down, restore the primeval purity and bliss, but only after the present corruption had been destroyed, abolished, gone up in flames. The transformation had to be a catastrophe, something terrible, the present world ruled by the Devil and his willing or unwilling servants had to vanish, the rulers themselves who probably would put up fierce resistance, had to be vanquished and thrown into darkness. Second: The world is still not fully evil and corrupt, there are some just people who deserve salvation, and will be saved from death and destruction. But these people are not to be found among the established, the rich, the powerful and learned, because the establishment is hopelessly corrupt and doomed.

The corruption is nowhere better exposed than in the doings of Israel, once the chosen people, God's own people, the salt of the earth. The degradation of Israel was surely a clear sign of the nearly total degradation of the world and the closeness of the great catastrophic transformation where the weeds, the bad will be burnt and/or thrown into the deepest darkness. Thus Jesus opposed the existing order of things, existing custom and morals. He was a radical and a revolutionary, full of hatred for the existing world order, more a predecessor of Lenin than Gandhi. Not a rabbi who taught his pupils the art of right behaviour, but a prophet who considered nearly all behaviour wrong. The right thing to do was to prepare for the Great Transformation, for the end of this world that was clearly not worth to be preserved and mended, as the bourgeois world for the Bolsheviks ready to destroy and transform it completely. Jesus was against the normal life, he was expecting that this life with its small pleasures and sufferings, vices and virtues, marriages and births will soon come to a terrible end, somehow he seems to have enjoyed this perspective, relished the imminent cataclysm. As have done many revolutionaries after him up to the XXth century.

Jesus clearly feels more in common with prophets, even calls himself a prophet, and his talks follow the same pattern. He constantly admonishes people to abandon the corrupt ways, to change their mind, to prepare for the coming disasters and the terrible judgment. However, there are two significant differences. No prophet considered himself divine, they had just got the word from God they had to tell to the people, their own personalities were not important or special, they had for some mysterious reason been chosen by God. And the ancient prophets didn't feel apocalyptic, they didn't believe the present world was approaching its end. Jesus clearly considers himself a divine person, a god and demands from his inner circle that they believe in him and recognize him as such.

This belief in his divinity gives Jesus a tremendous self-assurance, and allows him to ignore or to radically reinterpret any rule he and his disciples had to observe as Jews. He seems sometimes to be firmly convinced that he had the same authority as God who had given the Jews the rules, and therefore could give them new ones. In fact, these new rules are not much different from the rules as they were interpreted and taught by the school of Hillel. What is, of course, entirely absent from the Hillelian teaching of Torah, is the conviction of Jesus that he was a divine person, and that believing in him was something more important than proper behaviour. Or perhaps that believing in him was to become the root of a proper behaviour of a new kind.

In the tradition of Christian theology, there has been a lot of discussion on what was more important for Christ (and consequently, in Christianity) - faith or love. For Paul, there was no problem: he explicitly says that love ("charity" in the King James' Bible) is the greatest of the three: faith, hope and love. But reading the sayings attributed to Jesus we can't say that he had a similar view. For Jesus, faith, belief in him was, at least sometimes, clearly the greatest: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3, 36). Here, whether you loved your family and your neighbours, mattered less than belief. Not lovers, but believers shall see life. The Evangelists' preoccupation is clearly to make people believe in Jesus, not to make them love one another.

One of the most radical sayings of Jesus in his sermon of the mount is: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. But in many other sermons and parables he is not so mild and meek. Instead of blessing his enemies, he curses them, Pharisees and scribes in most vehement way: Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell! Quite terrible words from the lips of somebody who considers himself to be God's son who has the authority to forgive people their sins and to take them to heaven or send them to hell. Jesus seems not to have much love or mercy for the rabbis or the small merchants who earned their living exchanging money and selling sacrificial animals in the Temple (it must have been in the Temple yard). If both kinds of his sayings, the meek and the vehement are authentic, his love must have been a very selective one indeed. But there is another possibility: we may think that Jesus didn't have a well balanced personality, but was prone to abrupt changes of mood, to outbursts of anger, of generosity, exaltation and despair. We can find stories in the Gospels that could prove these conjectures. One of them is certainly the story of his conflict with the sellers of sacrificial animals and money-exchangers within the Temple precinct. As an integral part of his story, it seems to me rather trustworthy. The fact is that the people who bought and sold in the temple and the moneychangers were strictly spoken not IN the temple, but in its precincts. The picture was very similar to what we can see inside or outside of any Christian Church where post cards, crucifixes, books and other things are sold. In Jesus' days it was much easier for people coming from afar - there were Jews coming to worship in the Temple from all the corners of the Empire - to buy a sacrificial animal there than to take it with them from their home country or from a marketplace. And it could be difficult too to find anywhere but in the Temple yard proper money that could be used in the temple.

My feeling is that in Jerusalem Jesus lost his balance, was seized by something that resembles what is nowadays called "the Jerusalem syndrome". He was perhaps completely overwhelmed by the feeling of being really the Messiah, a divine person whose mission was to change all things, to bring this world to an end, to launch the apocalyptic process that most probably had to begin just in Jerusalem, possibly even in the Temple. The Gospels seem not to tell everything what happened in and at the Temple. But if Jesus really attacked the sellers and moneychangers there must have been a serious skirmish. We can imagine what would happen if somebody tried to imitate Jesus' act for example in the St. Peter's cathedral in Rome. The Swiss guard would swiftly intervene and arrest the troublemaker. Unless he had his own guard with him. Surely the Temple had its own guardsmen ready to intervene, to arrest trespassers (non-Jews were forbidden to enter the sacred area), thieves and troublemakers. The fact that they didn't do it may well prove that Jesus entered the Temple area with a multitude of followers some of whom were armed. The man who next morning draw his sword in Gethsemane to defend his teacher was probably not the only one who had a sword.

Thus we may suppose that the incident at the Temple was much more serious than it is told by the Gospels. As Jesus had the idea that the world was completely corrupt, completely topsy-turvy, he could well imagine that overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers could be a proper thing to do. Perhaps he tried to overthrow something more, and perhaps he wasn't alone. There seems to have been a real skirmish in the Temple, and the priests and the "Temple captains" seem to have been unable to stop the violent crowd or to force them to leave the Temple. For some hours at least Jesus and his followers, some of them armed, may have overtaken the Temple.

Probably they left the Temple of their own free will. Perhaps Jesus was disappointed that the cataclysm he was waiting for and trying to launch didn't come. Perhaps - these events may be connected - his euphoria was ebbing, and he was losing his self-confidence. The popular agitation and expectation of the apocalypse were possibly ebbing too. People who had to come to witness the beginning of the end, the overturning of the world order were leaving, tired and disappointed. Only a handful of faithful followers remained with Jesus. But even some of them, among them Judas Iskariot had grave doubts about the Master they had so far believed in. Possibly Jesus had his own doubts too. His attempt to put and end to this world, to chase out the prince of this world had failed. Perhaps not finally: there was one possibility left: sacrifice. The events he was waiting for, the events he believed he had to put into motion couldn't be put into motion by violence, by intrusion into the Temple (for Jews, the Temple was certainly the Centre of the World). Now he thought that his death, his self-sacrifice could initiate them. And he began to prepare himself for this sacrifice, although, as it seems, without the self-assurance that was characteristic of his behaviour before the incident in the Temple.

Somehow, Jesus reminds me another Jewish Messiah, Shabbatai Zvi who was clearly a maniacal-depressive person. Sometimes, during his periods of exaltation, he was brilliant, nearly shining with charismatic light. Then, during depressions, he lost his self-confidence, was hesitant, avoided contacts with people. Possibly the personality of Jesus was of the same type.

The incident at the Temple the Temple captains couldn't deal with must have alarmed Pilate, the Roman procurator. Possibly he sent a message to the Jewish leaders that was blunt, clear and simple: either you will put down the rebellion and hand over to us the leader, the man who proclaimed himself King, or we shall interfere, and reestablish order with all available means. Possibly they were not very well informed, but what they knew was enough: a man had appeared in Jerusalem who considered himself King, he was enthusiastically received by large crowds, he had initiated violent actions. This was clearly something that went against the established order, against the Imperial rule, and had to be dealt with efficiently. It was a kind of an ultimatum, and the Jewish elders had to give a prompt answer to it. They gathered. Although it was holiday time, their task was absolutely urgent, many human lives depended on it, and they had to take a very painful decision. I cannot but believe that the story of the Gospel of John is more or less true. For example, what is said by some members of the great council: "If we let him thus alone, all men will believe in him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation." And then, the decisive words by Caiaphas, the hight priest: "..it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." Clearly, the elders didn't want to extradite Jesus. For them, he was, after all, a Jew, although most probably a heretic or even a madman, but they saw clearly that Jesus wasn't interested in launching an armed insurrection, he was not a menace to Roman rule, and giving him into the hands of the occupants was an insult and a disgrace to them. But there was little choice left. If they refused to hand Jesus over to Pilate, he would give his garrison orders to interfere. The council decided to do what Pilate had demanded.

Meanwhile Jesus went through a terrible depression: being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: "and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." In the following morning he was probably arrested by the Romans. The priests and the elders would have had no need for Judas to show them who among the small group of people in the garden was Jesus: most people, at least priests and people serving at the Temple probably knew him too well from the skirmish of the previous day. What was the role of Judas? Possibly he had agreed to take the Romans to Jesus, perhaps without having a clear idea of what would happen to him. If the story of the kiss is true, it could have a quite different meaning: Judas loved Jesus and felt very sorry for him, but thought as Caiaphas that he should be handed over to the Romans to save the people from brutal repression. His kiss was a sign of love and despair, and when he knew that his teacher would be crucified, he committed suicide.

The story of the trial of Jesus by the Jewish elders and his dialogue with Pilate are very fragmentary and biased. We cannot draw nearly any conclusions about what really happened. What were the accusations against Jesus, what were the testimonies given, who, if anybody, spoke in defence of him? Keeping in mind what had happened in the Temple, why is this serious incident not even mentioned in the Gospels as one possible point of accusation? Could he really have told that he would tear down the Temple and rebuild it? It sounds not too improbable. Did the Jewish elders judge Jesus? Why did they do it, if the decision had already been made to hand him over to Pilate? There is one possible explanation: the Jewish leaders were anxious not to let Pilate condemn Jesus as a leader of a rebellion against Roman rule, they tried to judge him according to their own law, accusing him of blasphemy, but partly due to the refusal of Jesus to collaborate, their attempt failed. Jesus was handed over to Pilate.

In the Gospels, Pilate is clearly shown in most positive light possible, although the writers didn't succeed in whitewashing him completely. He plays with Jesus as a cat with a mouse and finally lets him be crucified: this was first of all a punishment for rebels against the imperial rule. Clearly this was not what the Jewish elders would have wanted, but neither was the extradition of Jesus their free choice as the Evangelists try to show. The inscription INRI on the cross is also an insult and a badly veiled menace to the Jews whom Pilate in this way accused of being rebels, accomplices of somebody who had challenged the rule of Rome, and had to be punished with utmost severity. The behaviour of Jesus - if we can take seriously what is written - seems to be fatalistic. Either he was still in deep depression, beyond all hope, or had made his decision, and full of fatalistic peace as often people about committing suicide. In a way he was committing suicide, sacrificial suicide, nearly forcing the authorities to put him to death. To the interrogators, he had little to say, they had to make their decisions, he had made his. Perhaps he still had some doubts, perhaps he hesitated for a while, but there was not much he could do to stop the machinery he had set in motion. Perhaps he was still in despair, having had hopes that didn't materialize, the messianic times didn't begin when he went to the Temple with his followers. Now he could only to hope that it would begin with his death. But his last recorded saying "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", a quotation from the Psalms (22,1), was clearly a cry of desperation, perhaps he was losing even the hope that his approaching death would launch the eshatological events.

The story of Jesus' death, resurrection and the swarm of miracles that happened during his stay on earth is bad hellenistic pop-literature. His resurrection wouldn't be bad literature by itself, if it were not related as it is. Sun darkening and the veil of the temple rent, then the men in shining clothes at the sepulchre, Jesus walking through closed doors, teaching the disciples some fakir tricks as drinking poison and handling poisonous snakes, and then flying to heaven promising eternal life to those who believe in him and eternal damnation to those who don't. Not exactly a story that would make you believe in him unless you already believe. I have the impression that the evangelists often if not always lacked the feeling of awe and wonder that one feels when really confronting a mystery. They wanted to explain and prove everything, left little room for the Unknown, for the mystery, for the divine. God can't be something known, God is the Unknown, the Mysterious. But the Evangelists were more preoccupied with apologetics and polemics, not mysticism. The Gospels are written as proofs and testimonies, and as such have more in common with juridical than literary texts.

My story of Jesus ends with the empty sepulchre too. But it's just an empty sepulchre with no clues of what had happened. The friends and disciples of Jesus stand there, amazed and perplexed, but they will never learn what had happened. There are many explanations or attempts of explanation of this, some banal, some thrilling, some miraculous. But I feel that the story doesn't need any such explanation. Thus it is a better story.

I have myself known a man, an eminent Buddhist who died in a Soviet labour camp. It is told that his grave had been opened and the coffin there found to be empty. There is a similar story about the sepulchre of the Russian Emperor Alexander I too. According to some researchers, Alexander didn't die when he was officially declared dead, but instead went to a monastery and ended his days there as once had done Charles V, King of Spain.

Empty grave, empty sepulchre. The end of the story of Jesus son of Mary who believed he was the son of God, who sometimes had an irresistible charisma, sometimes was in deep despair, sometimes talked that we must love our enemies, sometimes cursed his colleagues with terrible curses. There is a mystery in him, a reminder of the mystery of human existence to us all.

The story of Jesus has become a myth, one of the most powerful and fatal myths in human history. In fact, there are many myths of Jesus, a whole mythology that has become an integral part of the Christian religion. The Christians have long suppressed the other possible stories about Jesus, other possible myths. Perhaps now, when Christianity is in a serious crisis, there is a need for a new approach, new stories about Jesus.


What is worse: to have the news that your brother had been murdered or that your brother has murdered somebody? I don't know. I often ask myself this question after having heard the latest news from Israel/Palestine.


We all live in Auschwitz. What we human beings are doing with Nature, with other living beings is not much better than Auschwitz. We exterminate some species and populations, and exploit the others mercilessly. Farm animals are for us no more living things capable of joy and suffering, but just moving reservoirs of meat and other resurces. We subject animals to all kinds of tortures, we behave as if only us, the Western variety of the species Homo sapiens had full human rights. What must we, the critically minded representatives of this privileged race do if we cannot accept this devastating way of life? Can we stop the ongoing Holocaust of Nature, the sixth great extinction? How could we stop it? Can we stop it at all? Does it make sense to do something for the Nature, for other living beings? What we can perhaps do is to protect some species, introduce some ligislation that could hinder some people from exxterminating some species, some populations, alleviate the sufferings of some exploited animals? But does it help? Is the slow extinction better than a rapid one? It could create an illusion that sustainable growth and progress is possible, that we can save both our way of life and Nature. This is impossible. To save Nature, and finally to save us, we need a radical change. Perhaps such a change can arrive only as the reaction to real disasters and tragedies, can come through acute suffering and despair... In medicine it is a known fact that chronic diseases are more difficult to cure than acute diseases, e.g. inflammations. Our way of life is a chronic disease, a chronic malfunction of the biosphere. To cure it, it must possible become acute, only then can't anybody avoid becoming conscious of it. The medecine to cure the disease is known, but so far we think it's too bitter for us to take. We agree to take it only when we feel the pain and can no more live with it, forget it, alleviate it with placeboes.


To resist

I am not a pacifist. The story of the East European Jews is a warning. They were pacifists, a people without a state, without an army, a people willing to follow all the rules imposed on them by the authorities. A people accustomed to obey. They obeyed also the Nazis without much resistance. With some exceptions, of course, as the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. They were exterminated.
Thus, sometimes we have to make war, we really have to defend ourselves. But then we must have absolutely serious reasons to do that, we must have a big security risk, a direct threat to our existence, to our freedom. Making war for personal, psychological reasons, for prestige is wrong.
Saddam Hussein probably is in possession of quite nasty weapons. He is a ruthless dictator. But he is not a suicidal madman. Attacking any other country in the region or outside it, would mean suicide for him and his regime. It's highly improbable that he will do that. His existence for the last ten years has been a desperate attempt to preserve his power and prestige, to survive, to perpetuate his regime, his dynasty. Even president Bush, according to some estimates, the least intelligent American president, or his more intelligent advisors must understand this. Then it's hard to believe that they believe their own militant rhetoric, that they are serious when they talk about Saddam's plans to use some nuclear bombs against some European or American cities. And they must know and understand that Saddam has no good relations with Al-Qa'ida. He is not a religious ruler, his regime is nationalistic and secular, precisely a regime the islamic fundamentalists oppose. I don't think that not even the US pressure on both can unite them in their opposition to the Western domination of the world. Although the Americans have a wonderful gift of creating enemies for themselves and then fighting them. Usama bin Laden was a CIA creature, and Saddam was propped up and armed by both the West and the Soviets.
Thus the Bush camarilla must have another reason to make war. Is it personal? Has it something to do with the interests of energy business? However, it's hard to believe that this reason is serious enough to wage war in one of the hottest and most unstable regions of the world.
But there is something that disturbs me even more than the imminent American war with Iraq. It's Washington's demand that the US GI's be exempt from the international jurisprudence, that they would be immune to prosecution by the International Court of Justice, that no government would extradite any American military to this court. This reminds me of the exterritoriality the Westerners enjoyed a hundred years ago in China. Now, for Bush and his court, Americans are like Westerners at that time, and we all, all other people, are like Chinese who cannot prosecute them. The pressure put on many countries by the US is an insult to us all, an insult to decent people in America too. As the Americans want my country, Estonia, to sign a non-extradition and non-prosecution treaty with them too, I cannot but draw some parallels with the treaty Estonia had to sign with the Soviet Union in 1939. This was a treaty giving the Soviets the right to establish on our soil some military bases and to bring in some troops. Signing of this treaty was in fact an act of capitulation, and opened the door to the following occupation and annexation of Estonia by the USSR. Some historians and politicians think Estonia should have resisted the Soviet blackmail. Maybe they are right. In any case, I believe Estonia as any other small country should nowadays resist the US blackmail. Until there will be a more intelligent, cooperative and open-minded administration in Washington.


CHRISTMAS IS DEAD

There was one thing in our life at the Soviet times I really regret: the quiet Christmas. The party tried to abolish it, to replace Christmas with New Year, even Santa Claus with a New Year Santa with nearly the same attributes. But the people stubbornly followed the old customs, and perhaps even revived some more archaic ones. Some went to Church, but for most of us visiting the graves of our parents and lighting a candle there became a more important ritual than the Lutheran service with its dull hymns and boring sermon. With thousands of flickering candlelights the cemeteries became our holy places where people stood in silence at the graves of their loved ones or spoke in a low voice. Christmas connected us with our ancestors, with our past the authorities wanted to take from us, reinvigorated our silent resistance to the ideology of the Communist rulers.
What the Communists never succeeded in doing, the capitalists did: they killed our Christmas, desacralised and commercialised it. Instead of the little Jesus, a big fat pig is laying in the manger, and nilly-willy we all worship it.
Do we really need oppression, hardship, unhappiness to preserve our sense of the sacred?


Reading a book on topology I wonder whether true science, science that demands a huge intellectual effort, isn't becoming a kind of esoteric activity. The scientific texts are similar to what once were the esoteric texts, impossible to understand and interpret without the guidance of a teacher, a guru, a priest. E.g. the mathematical texts are coded texts, they represent in a very conventional way the result of the mathematical thinking, the mathematical process, not the process itself. Thus simply reading books it is very hard to understand what mathematics really is, to be in, an insider. This is what the word esoteric really means.
There is something irreducible in exact sciences. In our era of banality and vulgarisation, the textbooks of mathematics and physics remain what they were, they are as esoteric as before, and the attempts to explain to lay people, "without any equations" what the physicists have discovered, is sometimes quite ridiculous.
Science is esoteric, and the critical attitudes and incredulity toward it can partly be explained by analogy: the esoteric teachings and esoteric groups have rarely been popular, rarely understood, often mistrusted and sometimes even persecuted. If the present trends continue, will our grandchildren witness execution of scientists and burning of textbooks of mathematics? The paradox is that what is nowadays called esotericism is most often very banal and cheap, a mess of antiquated explanations of the world that the science seemed to have won, but which are now coming back en force. Astrology, numerology, clairvoyance, occultism, witchcraft - these all have become very exoteric, very popular in both senses of the word. The only real esoteric teaching is science, science based on mathematics. This is the esotericism that was in vogue for some time, but now has lost its appeal for the masses who are returning to their former lore.


ETONIANS AGAINST THE WAR/a>

The following is the text of an open letter I wrote a couple of days ago. The letter has been published in our media, has got several hundred signature so far, including a dozen known artists and writers, and got a lot of press coverage.

> I read with astonishment in news papers that the foreign minister of Estonia together with foreign ministers of nine other European countries has signed a declaration supporting the policies of the US against Iraq. I deeply regret that the government of Estonia, in a hurry and without informing its citizens, has approved the behaviour of the Bush administration whose present aim is, in my opinion, not a just peace in the world but hegemony in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere. I, a citizen of the Republic of Estonia, do not support the threat by the US to use force against Iraq even without the approval of the United Nations, I do not approve either the pressure put by the US on some European nations opposing the unilateral intervention of the US in Iraq.

It seems certain that there will be a war between the US and Iraq, and neither the European politicians nor the young anti-war demonstrators can change the course of events. As to the war itself, there is little reason to doubt that Saddam will loose both the war and his hold on Iraq. What will become of Iraq itself and its people? This is a much more complicated question. Will it become a loose federation, an Islamist dictatorship or a Western (American) protectorate as Afghanistan? I think nobody can predict it at present. What seems certain is a further consolidation of the American hegemony in the world. When Saddam falls, the US will have no real adversaries in the Islamic world. Even its former arch-enemy Muammar Gaddafi seems to have become much more careful and pragmatic.
But is Saddam a significant obstacle to the American global hegemony? Scarcely. The victory over Saddam would't be a political, but rather a psychological and economical victory. With the oil resources of Iraq under its control, the American economy will be less endangered than nowadays. Also would all the possible enemies of America have got a lesson. America would be more self-confident and could with less second thoughts continue its present external and internal policies as well as its present way of life. The continuation of the American way of life will in a longer perspective be a bigger danger to the future of the world than Saddam Hussein with his destructive weaponry.
Of course, at present Saddam is a very loathsome phenomenon. As a deputy of the Estonian Parliament, I had some contacts with some Iraqi Kurdish refugees, and I know what a hell these people have went through. Saddam can surely be accused of genocide, but also of ecocide, he has destroyed most of the unique ecosystems of the Tigris-Euphrat delta. I am sure there are many people in Iraq who would prefer a war to the preservation of the status quo with the present regime. As there were in the 1940ties many people in my native Estonia desperately waiting for a new war that would have freed them from the Stalinist nightmare. There are worse things than war... In any case, it would be better both for the majority of Iraqis and for Iraq's neighbours if Saddam vanished from the scene as soon as possible. But I believe also that a very easy victory for the Americans would also be a bad thing for the world.
Victories, especially easy victories are dangerous for leaders, smaller defeats, as those suffered by the US in Vietnam or by the USSR in Afghanistan, have often had a positive effect on the losers. This means that for the world it would be ideal if Saddam lost the war, but Bush didn't win it. Such an outcome of the crisis is possible, but not very probable. I fear that the US will gain an easy victory, its self-confidence will increase, the American way of life, including its rising conservatism and religious fundamentalism, will even more successfully penetrate other regions, and the big ecological crisis will come sooner than otherwise. This wouldn't be so bad, after all: the sooner the disaster comes, the more we will have chances to combat it, to change our way of life. It's sad that Bush and his team who have rushed into global politics, seem to have little understanding and little concern for the real global problems, spending most of their energy on issues that won't mean much in the harsh world of tomorrow.

TICKET TO THE USSR

Sometimes I think that I would like to buy a ticket back to the USSR for a year or a couple of months to have a rest from all the fuss of capitalism, market economy, advertizing and showbiz. Yes now we have the freedom, but this freedom is so heavily polluted that I'm not sure whether it can be called freedom any more. In the former USSR many of us had more inner freedom, more space, more time, and could sometimes really have a rest.

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all in the making I suddenly remembered one of the last remains of the wall that once surrounded the Warsaw ghetto... And a dialogue in a novel by the Australian author Blanche d'Alpuget where one of her persons says that Israel is the biggest Jewish ghetto in the world. In any case, there is a sinister similarity between both walls. Ample ground for historical or theological reflections. Can we look at the Jewish history as a succession of open and closed periods, of the domination either by people inside or outside ghettoes? Now the Ghetto seems to have the upper hand. Isn't it one of the signs of the Middle Ages returning? The world is rebuilding empires, reorganizing itself into empires and large conglomerates as the Holy Roman Empire, the laicity is waning, religion reemerges as a political force. The Jews are retiring into their last big ghetto, the American leaders are calling a Crusade against terrorism, and the Arabs are talking about fighting a holy war against the Crusaders...

Religion is coming back, but it is still not the prevailing force, the main holder of power in the modern world, even in America. The role religion played in the medieval Europe or still plays in the islamic countries, has been overtaken by the market forces. The churches of our world are the super- and hypermarkets, shopping malls, the monasteries that often had more power and influence in the past, are the banks where some mysterious rituals are going on, where special people are working hard to our benefit. And there are lots of preachers, lots of statues and portraits of the saint, pictures of the pleasures waiting for us if we follow the precepts the preachers, advertizers give us. Their preaching os most often accompanied, even done in visual language similar to the images admonishing and exhorting the medieval Christians who were mostly illiterate. The declared goal of the market economy as the declared goal of the Church is to save our souls or bodies, to give us bliss, to help us. The difference is that between instant gratification and gratification after death, in the other world. But for a simple believer both in the past and in our days the Church offers a lot of instant gratification, peace of forgivening the sins, and quite often a promise of help, positive intervention of God or his saints in your life, healing your illness, giving your luck in love or business affairs, giving your victory over your enemy (in hoc signo vinces, etc. Thus the difference in practice is not as big as it seems from theoretical or theological point of view. The main difference between the preaching of modern advertizing and the preaching of the Church seems to be the near-absence of the negative preaching in the ads. For the Church, Hell was as important as Heaven, but for the advertizers, it seems to be practically absent. But if we look at the shoqbiz, the entertainment industry, the Hell is there. Both industries are closely connected, overlapping, and crime and horror is one of the main themes in the movies we are shown. Thus there seems to be a division of labour between the advertizing industry and entertainment industry. The former specializes in giving us images of bliss, the latter is giving us images of serial murder, rape, cannibalism, demonic forces attacking our planet. But there is always a reassuring message present too: there are among us brave men and women capable of fighting the forces of evil, despite the woes and ordeals, the Good finally triumphs over Evil. We can be reassured, our way of life is OK, the consumer society we live in is the best of possible worlds despite some threats and defects that can and will be countered and mended. Thus the messages of the advertizers and entertainers are part of the same propaganda, the same preaching that gives us both consolation, warning and pastime.

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