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Thoughts on From Postmodernism to Postsecularism
Chandra Muzaffar in dialogue with Eric Walberg
Muzaffar: Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergII.html is a stimulating and informative survey of both Islamic history and reformist thought, culminating in an analysis of the ongoing upheavals in WANA.
The book is an extensive exposition on Islamic Civilization itself. It covers the whole spectrum of dynasties, major episodes and personalities which is why the book should be an important reference for students of the civilization.
You are right, Eric, in arguing that for Islam the goal has always been “to nurture a morally sound community based on the Quran…” (p28). There have been endeavours in that direction in the past—some successes, many failures. In this regard, I am wondering why you did not mention specifically the moral indictment of Muawiyyah by Abu-Dharr Al-Giffari who some would view as the first major critic of the creeping injustices in early Muslim leadership?
In his introduction, Eric Walberg states, “The main purpose of this book is to help the reader to understand the alternative map which Islam offers.” This is both a literal and figural map, an alternative to the imperial and neocolonial boundaries that divide the Islamic world, and an alternative viewpoint to that of the imperial driver of capitalism. This offer includes “realigning ourselves with Nature, and rediscovering humanities’ spiritual evolutionary path…without abandoning the vital role of reason.”
This path along this alternate view is created strongly, with an obvious sympathy for the parts of Islam that are little known to the capitalist imperial view. It is a fully comprehensive path, leading the reader through time and through not just the Middle East, but on into Northern Africa, the Sahel, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The path always interacts with the imperial capitalist landscape ranging from the original European nationalist empires of France, Britain, Spain, and Holland on through to the hegemonic empire of the United States that has subordinated the previous empires into its fold. This has been done through military backing of corporate enterprises and many financial maneuverings that have – up until now – managed to stretch this empire into a full global span.
The first chapter, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, explains the nature of the Koran without the political prejudice brought on by imperial reaction (blowback) to occupation and creation of the ‘evil’ other. Following that, it presents a broad history of Islam up until the era of the First World War. While the interactions with Christianity were often violent, Islamic expansion eastward generally tended to be accomplished more peacefully through trade and missionaries – the latter of course being against the military corporate interests of the west.
Forging a Socialist-Islamist Alliance
Review of Eric Walberg's From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization, Clarity Press, 2013
By William T. Hathaway
Most western Middle East experts see Islam as a problem for the West -- a source of terrorism, religious fanaticism, unwanted immigrants -- and they see their job as helping to change the Middle East so it's no longer a problem for us. Eric Walberg, however, recognizes that this is another instance of the Big Lie.
The actual problem is the multifaceted aggression the West has been inflicting on the Middle East for decades and is determined to continue, no matter what the cost to them and us will be. His books and articles present the empirical evidence for this with scholarly precision and compassionate concern for the human damage done by our imperialism.
Brain research and social psychology have made astounding advances in understanding the mind. These two books will blow yours. The implications for western 'civilization' are profound. Here are some notes.
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Doubleday, 2011.
-heuristic (system 1 rule of thumb) biases -overconfident (first impression), resemblance, ease of memory search, emotion (sympathy for psychopathic charm), halo effect (exaggerate emotional reaction), WYSIATI (what you see is all there is), treating problems in isolation (not integrate variables), framing effects (context, importance of first impression, including page layout etc), priming (thinking about x -> x), endowment effect (owning x appears to increase its value)
-fallacies re human nature -rational, emotions such as fear, affection and hatred explain departures from rationality
-rather systmatic errors in thinking due to design of machinery of cognition rather than the corruption of thought by emotion. luck plays large role in success. accurate intuitions of experts better explained by skill and practice incorporated into heuristics. (variant of reason/ faith dialectic)
-system 1 (fast thinking) -automatic operations (associative memory, automatic mental activities (perception and memory), unconscious/ conscious skills incorporated from system 2 as automatic, -> heuristic
-system 2 -controlled operations -both self-contol and cognitive effort (allocates attention to effortful mental activities when demanded requiring choice and concentration, can reprogram normally automatic funs of attention and memory)
-also experiencing vs remembering self (a construct of system 2 but incorporating (fast) associative memories of system 1) -what makes experiencing self happy not same as what satisfies remembering self -need to balance using system 2 slow thinking. -memory both system 1&2 and system 2 can adjust system 1 experiencing/ associative memories (ie, counterintuitive steering out of icy skid)
Lawrence Wright, Twins: and What They Tell Us About Who We Are, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
These notes summarize the main findings of twinning studies during the past century which lead to some startling conclusions.
-behaviorism (BFSkinner) argued all behavior genetically based (we are the product of natural selection) but can be programmed in the individual. he denied special genes for altruism/ criminality/ other character trait -what our genes give us is the capacity to adapt to our environment. we are not innately good/ bad, rather determined by our environment. there is no individual responsibility. to change behavior we must design a different environment.
-but twin studies suggests genetic basis to behavior (approximately 50%, ie, 1/2 determined, 1/2 'free will' which we develop by creating our own environment as we mature and become more self-aware)
In August 2013, Marxism Leninism Today editor Zoltan Zigedy reviewed Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization
Zoltan Zigedy summarized Walberg’s writing in the following terms
1. The last great secular social justice project — socialism — has failed with the demise of the Soviet Union.
2. Islam and its attendant political-social-economic doctrines are viable alternative routes to social justice.
3. Islam is the only alternative that can deliver social justice. Therefore, Islam is the universal way to social justice.
My -comments to Zoltan's >points:
>the rise of Islamic civilization that Walberg foresaw was dashed on the rocks of divisiveness and foreign intervention
-I see this 'Islamic awakening' as coming in waves. the 2013 coup in Egypt is a trough, but the process of evolution/ revolution continues. the openness and experience of the Islamists cannot be put back in the djin's bottle.
I recall young Egyptian friends who were 'politicized' after the 2011 uprising. they didn't join secular groups, but the Muslim Brotherhood -- a huge move by millions of Egyptian youth. this has never been mentioned anywhere in the press. the ongoing demonstrations are courageous and principled, and deserve our respect and support.
summary: Islam has a complete social doctrine which opposes the exploitation of man by man and lending at interest. For this reason, Islam is, in the contemporary world after the end of communism, the great alternative to capitalism. Massimo Campanini, one of the leading Italian scholars of the field, in his History of the Middle East, confirms that Islam stands as challenge to the idea of "end of history". But this challenge is not extremist Islam and terrorism, which in his opinion is already defeated, but two other "Islamists".
Resisting The Modernist Nightmare: Islam As Road To Peace? by Richard Wilcox
Following the end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, there was supposed to have been a “peace dividend” which would have allowed the world to stop wasting money on arms manufacturing and explore roads toward peace and commerce. However, the Cold War itself may have been a ruse to some extent in order to justify the growth of global totalitarian government and corporate power in both the West and East, and as a result a peaceful world was never achieved.
Even the most naïve observer could see that something was very odd, given that at the same moment that the Russian enemy was tamed and the Berlin Wall had fallen, a new, even more nefarious enemy was born: the Muslim Terrorist. This seamless transition that benefited the military industrial complex and zionist warmongers was practically lifted out of a Hollywood script. In fact, Hollywood played an important role in creating the caricature and stereotype of the “evil Muslim” through innumerable anti-Muslim Hollywood propaganda films.
This book is a continuation of my earlier work, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games (2011), though it stands on its own. My purpose in Postmodern Imperialism was to give a picture of the world from the viewpoint of those on the receiving end of imperialism. It traces the manipulation of Islamists by imperialism, and poses the question: What are the implications of the revival of Islamic thought and activism for the western imperial project?
The subject of this work is the expansion of Islam since the seventh century, when revelations delivered to the Prophet Muhammad led to its consolidation as the renewal and culmination of Abrahamic monotheism. It looks at the parallels between the Muslim world today and past crises in Islamic civilization, which gave impetus to reforms and renewal from within, relying on the Quran and hadiths,1 and attempts to interpret recent history from the viewpoint of the Muslim world—how it sees the imposition on it of western systems and beliefs, and how it is dealing with this.
The period up to and including the occupation of the Muslim world by the western imperialists corresponds to Postmodern Imperialism’s Great Game I (GGI). For Asians, the most important event heralding the possibility of a new post-GGI ‘game’ was the Japanese victory in 1905 over Russia. Japan had successfully reformed via the Meiji Restoration in 1868, inspiring all Asia, including China and the Muslim world, which saw Japan’s determination to develop independently of the imperial powers as a way out of the colonial trap that they were rapidly falling into.
European Journal of American Studies review of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games
Recent history for even the casual observer of international affairs has been plagued by wars and conflicts in specific regions of the world. The wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, seem to indicate the latest machinations in the imperial designs of the USA. For many, using the term imperialism and connecting it to the USA is at best inappropriate. For others, American interventions in particular countries or specific regions of the world represent the practices of a hegemonic power and the expansion of an American empire. Some even argue that the nature of American imperialism is utterly novel, and deserving of a new label: ‘postmodern imperialism.’ As the title of Eric Walberg’s book, his examination of the trajectories of contemporary imperialism includes scrutiny of the geopolitical interests of the USA and its “new developments in financial and military-political strategies to ensure control over the world’s resources” (27-28). While Postmodern Imperialism primarily focuses on key aspects of imperialism, geopolitical analysis and commentary forms the foundation of Walberg’s narrative.
Robert Wright, Nonzero: the logic of human destiny (2000)
-organic evolution tends to create more complex forms of life, raising overall entropy but concentrating order locally
-Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, the thinking envelope of the Earth
-throughout nature, main trend is the increase in capacity for information processing, storage and analysis. DNA not just data, but data processor.
-the function of the energy marshaled by an organism or society not just to sustain and protect structure, but to guide the marshaling.
-secret of life not DNA but zero sum (zs)/ nonzero sum (nzs) games (to better pass on one’s DNA - the ‘meaning of life’).
‘laws of nature’:
Review of Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World,
Ard ard (Surface-to-surface): The story of a graffiti revolution
Egyptian Association for Books 2011
Graffiti -- the art of the masses, by the masses, for the masses -- has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and arguably to Pharaonic Egypt. Sherif Abdel-Megid, a writer who works for Egyptian television, boasts that Egypt's revolution and the explosion of popular art that followed it finds its roots in the decay of the Sixth dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the reign of Pepi II (2278-2184 BC), credited with having the longest reign of any monarch in history at 94 years (Mubarak, eat your heart out). His own decline paralleled the disintegration of the kingdom and it is thanks to Pharaonic graffiti that we know about it.
I confess that I cringe when I see the word “post-modern.” This word has
obscured more discussions, confused more gullible readers, and conned
more writers than any word since “existential” and its “-ism.” For the
most part, it has served as a kind of fashionable linguistic operator
that signals something radical and profound will follow. Almost always,
what follows disappoints.
Eric Walberg’s book, Postmodern Imperialism (Clarity Press, 2011), doesn’t change my general opinion of the word, though what follows the title certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Walberg has offered a welcome taxonomy of imperialism from its nineteenth century genesis until today; he has given a plausible explanation of imperialism’s contours since the exit of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism from the world stage; and he has convincingly described Israel’s unique role in the continuing reshaping of imperialism’s grasp for world domination.
I. Let the Games Begin…Again…and Again
The great disaffected masses tell us that history is on the march and, as usual, guns and butter are the simpler issues. In America, support dwindles for a war that has lasted a decade. Drone missiles, each costing $100,000, kill “terrorists” in gutturally named, chicken-scratch places bewilderingly far from America’s hometowns, whose simple citizens ask where their taxes go. Costs of the Afghanistan war this year are the highest ever, $119.4 billion and counting. Polls show historically deep disaffection with The System. The mask of America-First patriotism is falling, revealing an intoxicated self-grandiosity and will to power by renascent Bush-era neocons and cynical manipulations by the CEO caste and other one-percenters for more and more wealth, and whose sense of entitlement the victims of class warfare, lumpen proles and petit bourgeoisie alike, seem unable to stomach any longer. Approval of the Republican led-by-gridlock Congress hovers around fifteen percent. Ever-larger protests in other cities in America and internationally have extended those on Wall Street – protests even a year ago one would never have predicted – and “class warfare – rich against poor” appears on the protestors’ signs.
The disaffected might also ask why the US, as Eric Walberg notes in his extraordinary new book, has 730 American military bases in fifty countries around the globe, and why the US share of the world’s military expenditures is 42.8% while, by comparison, China’s is 7.3% and Russia’s 3.6%. The unavoidable irony is that the Pax Americana seems to be requiring endless war with no particular rationale behind it – and truly astonishing numbers of dollars are spent on behalf of war rather than at home. What may be fatally undermining credibility in America’s “transcendent values” has been the sense that as the facts filter down to the masses, the Empire’s new clothes appear to be the same as that of past empires. All empires have births and deaths – the US Empire will be no different. Internal contradictions of the US efforts to control the globe seem now to be sending things spiraling out of control.
Eric Walberg’s acute insights into the contemporary global order raise many questions about the continued viability of the American and Israeli focus on wealth and power. Perhaps understandably, his interests and insights inspired by the Islamic world make him a penetrating commentator on peoples who are a product of Christian and Jewish tradition.
Walberg is a Canadian authority on the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia who writes for Al Ahram, the best known English language newspaper in the Middle East.
Though the number of critical voices concerning Israel, Zionism and Jewish power is growing steadily, a clear distinction can be made on the one hand between contributors who operate within the discourse and are politically oriented, and others who transcend themselves above and beyond any given political paradigm.
The former category refers to writers and scholars who operate 'within the box,' accepting the restrictive measures of a given political and intellectual discourse. A thinker who operates within such a framework would initially identify the boundaries of the discourse, and then shape his or her ideas to fit in accordingly. The latter category refers to a far more challenging intellectual attempt: it includes those very few who operate within a post-political realm, those who defy the dictatorship of 'political-correctness', or any given 'party-line'. It relates to those minds that think 'out of the box'. And it is actually those who, like artists, plant the seeds of a possible conceptual and consciousness shift.
The Wandering Who? A study of Jewish identity politics, gives a unique insider’s view of the Israeli mind. Its author explains to Eric Walberg that you can take the girl out of Jezebel, but you can’t take Jezebel out of the girl
Gilad Atzmon is a world citizen who calls London his home. He was born a sabra, and served as a paramedic in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War, when he realised that “I was part of a colonial state, the result of plundering and ethnic cleansing.” He has wandered far since then, become a novelist, philosopher, one of the world’s best jazz saxophonists, and at the same time, one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian cause, supporting their right of return and the one-state solution. He now defines himself as a “proud self-hating Jew” and “a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian”. In 2009 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan quoted Atzmon during a debate with Israeli president Shimon Peres, telling him at the World Economic Forum that “Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty.”
Three books recently published by the American radical publisher Clarity Press reflect different aspects of racism in the US, which even under a black president is unfortunately alive and well, promoted in US policy at home and abroad -- if not officially:
Devon Mihesua, American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities
Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims
Francis Boyle, The Palestinian Right of Return Under International Law
-secular thinkers imagine they have left religion behind, but have only exchanged religion for a humanist faith in progress
-Joseph Roth worried about spread of ideas of national self-determination. Monarchy was more tolerant. A society can be civilized without recognizing rights, while one based on rights may be tainted with barbarism (Austria-Hungary abolished torture in 1776)
-torture is Enlightenment tradition, 'progress' a legacy of Christianity (salvation in battle between good and evil Zoroastra). 'God defeats evil' translated into secular terms. also meliorism of liberal humanists. Enlightenment hostile to Christianity but used Christian framework.
-US enriched rather than impoverished by the two world wars and by their outcome, nothing in common with Britain -> still glorifies military, sentiment familiar in Europe before 1945.
-in Europe, dominant sentiment relief at "final closing of a long, unhappy chapter" vs in US - story recorded in a triumphalist key. war works. thus remains the first option, vs last resort
-20th c rise and fall of the state. welfare state a cross-party 20th c consensus implemented by liberals or conservatives not as first stage of 20th c socialism but culmination of late-19th c reformist liberalism, prerequisites of a stable civil order. p10
-citizens lost gnawing sentiment of insecurity and fear that had dominated political life between 1914 and 1945. forgot this fear -> neoliberalism. now fear reemerging [-> neofascism], fear that not only we but those 'in authority' have lost control of forces beyond their reach [implicitly acknowledging the cabal of international bankers/ military industrial complex (mic) that conspire above governments, tho Judt would be the first to dismiss this p20]
Clarity Press June 2011
advanced purchase http://www.claritypress.com/Walberg.html
To young people today, the world as a global village appears as a given, a ready-made order, as if human evolution all along was logically moving towards our high-tech, market-driven society, dominated by the wealthy United States. To bring the world to order, the US must bear the burden of oversize defense spending, capture terrorists, eliminate dictators, and warn ungrateful nations like China and Russia to adjust their policies so as not to hinder the US in its altruistic mission civilatrice.
The reality is something else entirely, the only truth in the above characterization being the overwhelming military dominance of the US in the world today. The US itself is the source of much of the world’s terrorism, its 1.6 million troops in over a thousand bases around the world the most egregious terrorists, leaving the Osama bin Ladens in the shade, and other lesser critics of US policies worried about their job prospects.
My own realization of the true nature of the world order began with my journey to England to study economics at Cambridge University in September 1973. I decided to take the luxury SS France ocean liner which offered a student rate of a few hundred dollars (and unlimited luggage), where I met American students on Marshall and Rhodes scholarships (I had the less prestigious Mackenzie King scholarship), and used my wiles to enjoy the perks of first class. The ship was a microcosm of society, a benign one. The world was my oyster and I wanted to share my joy with everyone.
But I was in for a shock.
How green is your deen?
Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2010
Muslim Americans are slowly beginning to make their mark on their very conflicted society. There are more Muslims than Jews in the US now -- approximately 5 million. They are the most diverse of all American believers, 35 per cent born in the US (25 per cent Afro-American), the rest -- immigrants from southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Traditionally they have voted Republican, but have shifted to Democrat and Green parties in recent years.
Three new publications from the leading radical British press are the tip of a growing iceberg of passionate pleas for sanity in international affairs. Most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand as the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, but there are works that can fascinate and uplift, perhaps even inspire us to do something before it is too late.
-the attempt to fuse the public and private lies behind Plato’s attempt to answer the q “Why is it in one’s interest to be just?” and Christianity’s claim that perfect self-realization can be attained through service to others. [capitalism proposes the invisible hand, soc – class consciousness and state-sanctioned ideology, Rorty’s vision – soc demo and metaphors]
-ecology - 19th c term - investigation of interrelationships between animals, plants, and their inorganic environment - dynamic balance of nature, interdependence of living and nonliving things. vs environmentalism (natural engineering)-social ecology - dialectical unfolding of life-forms from simple to complex. (history of phenomenon is the phenomenon itself) human-made universe is 'second nature'. society = institutionalized communities. philosophy of evolution. must synthesize these 2 natures into a 3rd. process of achieving wholeness by means of unity thru diversity, complementarity (vs homogeneous monocultural oneness of cap).
-x preferred schoolgirls because less complicated, less real than adult women, as dream less complicated than reality.paradox of sex - always seems to be offering more than it can deliver.
Time and its discontents
-Latin words for culture = agriculture/ domestication AND translation from Greek terms for spatial image of time. We are 'time-binders', creating a symbolic class of life, an artificial world -> control over nature. Time becomes real because it has consequences. Flow of time 'the distinction between what one needs and what one has, the incipience of regret' (Guyau (1890) Carpe diem, but civ(ilization) forces us to mortgage the present to the future.
-worldatlarge dangerous and threatening. It didn't like the Jews (Js) because they were clever, quick-witted, successful, but also because they were noisy and push. It didn't like what we were doing here in the Land of Israel either, because it begrudged us even this meager strip of marshland, boulders, and desert. Out there in the world all the walls were covered with graffiti: yids, go back to Palestine, so we came back to Palestine and now the worldatlarge shouts at us: Yids, get out of Palestine.
25/12/8 This latest collection of essays by the controversial Israeli writer will not disappoint both admirers and antagonists of this iconoclastic anti-Zionist, most definitely the greatest thorn in Israel's very own backyard. Shamir has known controversy most of his life, notably when he was forced to leave the Soviet Union for demonstrating defiantly against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. He came to Israel, served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, before settling down to a career as journalist (Haaretz, BBC), translator (James Joyce, the Caballah), and increasingly a one-man Internet David to Israel's Goliath. He has never looked back, despite the difficulty of publishing his unapologetic critiques of not just Zionism and Israel, but of Judaism, Jews and Jewry.
Film script: The Silk Road and the unknown East -- 6 part documentary
Introduction and Part I
We will take a journey along the most ancient and thrilling road in Man's history, through a mysterious and little known part of the world, but one which has experienced all there is - the great religions have all thrived here at one time or another - Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam; at certain periods great centres of learning and the arts sprang up and declined, as did great warrior-princes. It is a region of violent contrasts - desert, mountains, lush valleys and oases. It is a mix of many races. Until a century ago, it was all but lost to the march of civilisation. Until the fall of Communism, it maintained its shroud of secrecy. With modern means of communications, it is now as accessible as any other destination. I am speaking of course of where East truly meets West - Central Asia.
We left Saturday morning for a 4-day hike. Because of the growing problem of bandits in the mountains, Sasha decided to start from the mountains nearest to Tashkent which start from a Tajik village (all villages near or in the mountains are populated by either Tajik or Kazakh) called Nevichu, avoiding check points by taking back roads. Sasha’s wife, Oksana, (whom I met on the plane from New York to Tashkent when she conned me into taking one of her 50-lb. bags to avoid extra baggage charges) saw Sasha, their son, Dima, and myself off, agreeing to meet us 5 days later in Gazalkent.
The care of the self
Artemidorus The interpretation of dreams
-break down dream into constituent partts, decipher in context of the whole
-virtuous vs. ordinary individual - gods speak to former
-the more you understand dreams, the more complex they become (to hide behind images)
-wasting sperm is bad (with prostitute, fellatio - signifying loss of money), being passive is bad for man (tho sex with slaves or passive with older man is ok, the latter a promise of gifts)
-sex out of harmony with nature is bad - rift, enmity, death
The 4 main ways that the mind works are sensation/thinking and feeling /intuition - the former more the realm of the conscious (c - rational), the latter of the unconscious (u - nonrational)
Thinking and feeling are categories of perception; intuition and sensation of apprehension
c (shadow + anima) + c (ego) = Self.
The unconscious (u) is compensatory/complementary to the conscious (c).
The general theme: respect your child’s feelings, let the child develop and mature to become independent, love unconditionally. Parents, especially mothers, unconsciously or otherwise, use the child to fulfill their needs, and use conditional love as their weapon (rationalized as ‘socialization’) A child who resists is rejected or withdrawn from and can’t help but re-enact the relationship. There is no clear separation of subject/object (child’s fear that rejection of object will destroy it).