Canada Slim and the Magical Cactus

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Friday 10 April 2020 (Lockdown Day #24)

At present, we live in interesting times, as the Chinese curse intended.

Stores are shuttered.

Church services suspended.

My sources of employment closed.

My movements outside of the apartment discouraged and travels outside the country denied.

For three weeks this has been normal life across this land and in many other nations around the globe.

We struggle against a foe invisible and invincible and yet naively believe it can be conquered, for such is the indomitable spirit of man.

 

May You Live In Interesting Times Chinese Curse Apron | Spreadshirt

 

The Swiss government has extended the anti-corona virus restrictions in place for another week until 26 April, but it said it plans to examine an easing of measures at the end of the month.

The Covid-19 epidemic has spread widely in Switzerland but the speed at which it is spreading has slowed significantly in recent days, the government said on Wednesday.

 

Vier weitere Covid-19-Opfer in der Schweiz | Schweiz | Bote der ...

 

The measures put in place to combat the virus are being followed well by the public and are having the desired effect, according to President Simonetta Sommaruga and Interior Minister Alain Berset.

 

Largest Swiss flag in the world damaged by torrential rain in the ...

 

“After four weeks the situation has evolved favourably,” Berset told a news conference.

“So, we’ve decided to extend the measures until 26 April and to proceed to the first loosening of some measures in some sectors.”

 

Bilateralism is in our DNA' – interior minister - SWI swissinfo.ch

 

“We are on the right path, but we haven’t reached the finish line,” Sommaruga added.

 

Socialist Sommaruga Takes Over Swiss Presidency | Voice of America ...

 

A decision on the specific areas and measures to be relaxed will be presented on 16 April, the government said in a statement.

For the successful phase-out, certain requirements must be fulfilled, Berset explained.

These include a steady downward trend in number of new infections, hospitalisations and the death rate.

 

Covid-19: Zweiter Todesfall in der Schweiz | Kanton

Above: Covid-19 in Switzerland – red: infected / green: recovered / black: dead – just a week prior to the lockdown

 

Switzerland remains one of the countries most affected by the corona virus, with more than 22,500 positive tests and more than 850 deaths in a population of 8.5 million.

COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Switzerland by Canton.svg

Above: The number of corona virus (Covid-19) cases in Switzerland broken down by cantons as of 9 April 2020 – the darker the canton, the more cases therein

 

Berset said virus case figures were still rising, but in recent days there had been fewer daily infections and the number of people needing hospital treatment had stabilised.

“We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but discipline and patience is needed, especially during Easter when people must stay at home.

We must continue on this path for the next few weeks,” he declared.

 

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Number of cases rises above 260 - The ...

 

The Interior Minister stressed that the population must continue to respect social distancing and hygiene measures, which are being well implemented and are working.

“We need to maintain these measures.

This is the condition by which we will be able to return to normal progressively,” he declared.

 

Coronavirus

 

On 16 March, the government declared the corona virus pandemic an “extraordinary situation”, instituting a ban on all private and public events and ordering the closure of bars, restaurants, sports facilities and cultural spaces across the country.

Only businesses providing essential goods to the population – such as grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, banks and post offices – are allowed to remain open.

On the education front, schools are also closed nationwide.

 

Bern in the time of coronavirus - SWI swissinfo.ch

Above: Bern, the capital of Switzerland, midday, midweek under lockdown

 

Switzerland could suffer its worst economic downturn on record, the government said on Wednesday, with the corona virus epidemic shrinking the economy by as much as 10.4% this year.

The scenario, far worse than the government’s previous forecast of a 1.5% contraction, would occur if there was a prolonged shutdown in Switzerland and as well as abroad, triggering bankruptcies and job cuts.

 

Cash-crazy Swiss get new 1,000 Swiss franc note - Reuters

 

Economic Affairs Minister Guy Parmelin told reporters in Bern that the economy had been shaken by the virus and restrictions introduced to keep it from spreading.

He said nearly a third of the country’s workforce was on short-time work and unemployed numbers were on the rise.

The scenarios are gloomy,” he told reporters.

The health impact of the corona virus has been a concern for the Swiss government, but so has the effect on the economy.

It’s important we all do everything so that people in this country can work, despite the virus.

 

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research ...

 

Since I am not working I have a lot of leisure time on my hands.

It has often been said that a man’s character is best judged by not only what a job he does and how he performs in these duties, but as well a glimpse into who he really is can be observed by what he does with the time not devoted to an employer.

 

63 Beautiful Leisure Quotes And Sayings

 

For myself, I try to take a walk outside for at least one hour everyday, occasionally I do the odd household duty or bit of decluttering when fits of ambition strike or the regular reminders from the wife become too much to tolerate, and I try to maintain a regular schedule of writing.

Time to Write Wall Clock for writers by WonderfulWorldOfWords ...

My formerly frantic work schedule and my travels here, there and everywhere have found me falling behind in the writing of my blogs, especially this one that focuses on travels done before the actual calendar year in which these posts are written down.

Now I have time to write and the time to read.

 

To everything there is a season...

 

Of the latter, I, of course, try to keep au courant on current affairs both here in Switzerland and across the planet by reading news online and when possible from newspapers.

 

Man reading newspaper Royalty Free Vector Image

 

Though I am presently denied access to both bookstores and libraries, I do have in my possession my own burgeoning library that dominates our small apartment.

The guestroom bookshelves are burdened with works of fiction.

My study shelves hold books of and for teaching, history and politics, biography and autobiography, travel and travelogues, philosophy and psychology.

 

7 Ways to Fight Clutter - Critical Shots

 

Of books I am drawn to buying and reading I find myself fascinated by the lives and observations of creative types, especially writers.

Certainly I seek the secrets of their success in an attempt to duplicate or at least emulate their methods and madness.

What writers do in their leisure hours often is the inspiration for their imaginative output.

 

Daily Rituals

 

I think of other activities some people practice during their private leisure hours, especially those who are young or young at heart.

Many activities revolve around the delightful duality of distraction and pleasure: physical intimacy with a nearby beloved, watching marathon episodes of regular series, and the ingestion of various substances that create excitement or ease the mind.

 

Couple drinking red wine on beach - Stock Photo - Dissolve

 

Here in Switzerland, access to alcohol and cannabis is not difficult for those determined to indulge themselves in this fashion, though for many there is little joy in indulging in these alone at home.

 

Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

 

I will not judge others who do indulge, except to say it is my hope that they consider the effects of what they take into their bodies.

What was kept me on the straight and narrow has been a lack of curiosity and peer pressure to experiment with substances with which I have had no previous experience.

But, that having been said, though I lack the courage to experiment on myself, there has always been an idle curiosity in learning how such experiments have affected others.

 

outside-looking-in | Source of Inspiration

 

Substances such as cocaine or heroin or others which cause distraction or delight have never piqued my curiosity, for the sole drugs with which I have any experience with – caffeine and alcohol – either wake me from slumber or cause me to sleep.

 

New Tabletops Unlimited Handpainted Ambrosia Tangerine Orange ...

 

I have no desire to ingest something which may cause me to lose self-control (at least publicly).

Where my curiosity is piqued – though lack of courage keeps me from trying such things myself – is when I learn of substances that are said to induce creativity and expand imagination.

 

Film - Curious George - Into Film

 

And it is this curiosity that makes me glad I only visited but don’t work at the Jardin de Cactus on the Canary Island of Lanzarote, for if I did I might be tempted to satisfy that curiosity…..

 

Lanzarote - Wikipedia

 

Guatiza, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain, Monday 3 December 2018

Guatiza is light and shade and purpose.

The visitor is inevitably surprised on arriving at Guatiza, located 2 km from the east coast of Lanzarote, 8 km east of the town Teguise and 14 km northeast of the island capital Arrecife, to find a village like any other but surrounded by a sea of green.

 

Guatiza village on Lanzarote, June 2013 (1).jpg

 

There are 612 species of ferns and flowering plants that grow spontaneously in Lanzarote.

Most of these plants are native.

 

Phoenix canariensis CBMen 6.jpg

 

Among them, 93 are endemic to the Canary Islands, while 20 are considered exclusive to Lanzarote.

 

Spain Canary Islands location map Lanzarote.svg

 

Lanzarote’s endemic plant life may seem limited in comparison with the entire Canarian archipelago, in which there are 650 endemic species in about 7,200 square kilometres.

 

 

However, Lanzarote is rich and varied if compared to any European country, including Switzerland.

 

lanzarote detailed map | Voyage

 

For example, 100 endemic species exist in France (560,000 square kilometres), 16 exist in Great Britain (250,000 square kilometres) and only six in Germany (350,000 square kilometres).

 

Europe Map and Satellite Image

 

So, given this data, the importance of the islands’ flora is clear.

 

 

Vegetation on the Islands varies with the altitude and is conditioned by the constant flow of humid trade winds and the height of the island geography.

Lanzarote barely exceeds 600 metres above sea level at the summit of the oldest mountains.

Thus the winds generally pass over without releasing their moisture.

 

Hiking Trekking in Lanzarote. The beauty of nature.

 

In contrast to the forests found on the higher Canary Islands, Lanzarote offers the best examples of the sub-desert habitats of the Canary Basal Floor, meaning that Lanzarote’s vegetative covering is rather poor, due not only to the arid climate but also to overgrazing.

Today, the decline of farming and grazing, as well as increased public awareness and the protection of large areas of territory, is enabling the slow recovery of profoundly transformed plant communities.

The local scrub thorn (commonly referred to as maleza, in Spanish) is the island’s most common plant formation, growing on the plains and low hills, as well as in undisturbed areas such as old cultivations.

 

Flora de Lanzarote

 

There are five hundred different kinds of plants on the island, of which 17 species are endemic.

These plants have adapted to the relative scarcity of water in the same way as succulents.

They include the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), which is found in damper areas of the north, the Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis), ferns and wild olive trees (Olea europaea).

Laurisilva trees, which once covered the highest parts of Risco de Famara, are rarely found today.

After winter rainfall, the vegetation comes to a colourful bloom between February and March.

 

Un bosque de laurisilva en Tarifa, más motivos para la locura

 

The vineyards of La Gería wine region, are a protected area.

Single vines are planted in pits 4–5 metres (13–16 feet) wide and 2–3 metres (6 feet 7 inches–9 feet 10 inches) deep, with small stone walls around each pit.

This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and to protect the plants from the winds.

 

Lanzarote Wineries: 10 Incredible Volcanic Vineyards 🍷

 

What is not natural to Lanzarote, but found in Guatina in abundance, are cactus plants.

Guatina is a seemingly endless ocean of cactus whose large, oval proturbences blend into weird geometric forms.

At first glance, it seems that surely only some strange caprice of nature could have brought together in one same place such an enormous quantity of plants that normally elsewhere grow in defiant solitude.

But, no…..

This plantation of spines is the work of man and the plants are as well cared for as the children of man.

To be fair, man is assisted by nature now.

 

 

Draw close to the plants and observe them in detail, for then one can see that the cactus is covered by a myriad of tiny insects.

This creepy crawlers are “cochinillas“, a strange variety of parasite which, when dead, dried and ground, produces an extraordinary natural tint, cochineal, which is used in cosmetics and dyes and is renowned for its quality and resistence to external agents.

This exotic insect, originally from Mexico, arrived on Lanzarote in the 17th century and has since become a permanent resident, contributing significantly to the economy of Lanzarote.

As the cochinilla is an immigrant so too are Guatiza’s cacti.

 

Se realiza estudio sobre la cochinilla rosada

 

Here is a flat, elongated place that you can find on a long avenue in the otherwise almost treeless Lanzarote.

For tourists, Guatiza is a pure transit point and is still entirely reserved for the Lanzarotenos.

Only the Jardín de Cactus at the northern end of the village, Manrique’s last creation in Lanzorote, attracts visitors in droves.

In the middle of the village, behind small stone walls, there are large prickly pear cactus fields, which were previously used extensively for the breeding of cochineal lice and which no longer tear down behind Mala.

Some dilapidated gofio mills set contrasts.

 

Jardín de Cactus – CACT Lanzarote

 

(A note about Lanzarote gastronomy:

Due to reasons of climate and customs, Lanzarote’e cuisine tends to be quite simple, based on elements common to the Island, like fish and local produce, seasoned with spices and special dressings.

Almost all Canarian dishes are served with an accompaniment known as gofio, which has been consumed for centuries.

Gofio is made from toasted grain flour.

 

entornos / ... Lanzarote, la isla de los volcanes: Gofio

 

Gofio amasado is made from mixing this flour with different ingredients, such as water, milk, broth, potatoes, honey, wine, etc. in a leather bag, pot or pan.

 

Cómo hacer una PELLA DE GOFIO, una receta tradicional canaria

Most gofio is made with a mixture of wheat and barley grains, toasted and then milled.

Gofio de millo is also used: a coarse flour made from toasted corn.)

 

Gofio de Millo 1 Kg - Gofio La Piña - Dietetica Ferrer

 

The pretty parish church of Santo Gusto stands out to the side of the main street.

The facade is covered with elegantly curved decorations made of brown lava stone.

In the high interior there are colored glass windows, a large altar and a heavy wooden gallery.

 

Kirche Santo Gusto - Bild von Iglesia Santo Gusto, Guatiza ...

 

The streets at the southern entrance lead to Los Cocoteros on the coast (not signposted, but not to be missed).
Past cactus fields and a picón (volcanic sand) pit, it goes down on an asphalt road to the secluded holiday home area right by the sea.
Many bungalows seem neglected, there are a few tousled palm trees in the area, there is no shop or other facilities.
A seawater pool, when filled, mainly attracts children and adolescents, in front of it is a lagoon pool with small strips of sand, which is protected from the turbulent sea by a closed jetty.
Wikiloc | Foto de Lanzarote Norte 3 : Las Tuneras de Guatiza, los ...
At the entrance to the village, next to an apartment complex where you can park, are the large Salinas de los Agujeros – in addition to the large Salinas de Janubio in the south, the only ones still in operation in Lanzarote.
A path leads along the sea and you can see the heaped salt mountains between the rectangular evaporation basins – a handful of salt is a nice reminder of Lanzarote.
Salinas del Agujero | Lanzarote Internacional Turismo
In a decommissioned picón pit, in which loose lapilla stone for dry field cultivation had been mined since the mid-19th century, the island government had a wasteful variety of cactus and milkweed plants (euphorbia) of all shapes and sizes planted according to César Manrique’s plans in the late 1980s.
There are over 1400 species – from tiny structures that are only a few centimeters high to giant spiked giants.
A facility that fascinates in its diversity and shows what is possible in the supposedly hostile desolation of Lanzarote.
Jardin de Cactus Admission Ticket in Lanzarote - Klook
The Jardín de Cactus is located on the outskirts of Guatiza, in the middle of huge opuntia fields for breeding cochineal lice.
A towering cactus directly on the road leads to surprised “Oh” and “Ah“.
As you get closer, you can see that this magnificent specimen of eight meters is made entirely of metal!

Cactus Garden

A gofio mill towers above the garden, which also offers a striking eye-catcher and has almost become a kind of landmark for Lanzarote.
Both the mill and the entire pit were in a completely dilapidated state before Manrique laid out the blooming museum garden.
Since then, the crowds have flocked and Lanzarote has been enriched by a large attraction.
High Quality Stock Photos of "cacti"
The Jardín de Cactus is designed in the form of an amphitheatre.
Jardin de Cactus — Wikipédia
On paths made of lava stone, you cross the large, walled area, on which the most diverse cacti grow, with planted terraces all around.
Goldfish ponds, small waterfalls and high, bizarrely shaped lava steles loosen up the area.
The latter date from the time when picón was mined here.
They were too hard and were just left standing at that time.
Jardín de Cactus | Du befindest dich auf der Tourismus-Website der ...
Like the cochineal louse, the fig cactus has been imported from Mexico, and, in fact, most of the species growing at the Jardín de Cactus come from America.
You can hardly see enough of the many, attractively planted cactus species.
They are particularly pretty when they are showing their mostly brightly colored flowers.
THE CACTUS GARDEN LANZAROTE Jardin de Cactus Visitor Guide - Finca ...
There are said to be 9,700 specimens from 1,420 different species, all of which are neatly marked with their scientific names.
However, the cacti do not all come from the Canaries, but are imported in part from America and Africa.
But of course you can also find the native representatives of the genus.
At the far end of the complex you come to the cafeteria.
Jardín de Cactus – CACT Lanzarote
You sit there on a terrace under canvas tarpaulins, have a beautiful view of the cactus garden and can enjoy various “platos combinados” and cakes.
Via a spiral staircase you climb a decorative Manrique piece of art made of glass and metal to the restored windmill and visit the large grinder.
The view from up here is also worth the climb.
Jardín de Cactus – CACT Lanzarote
Last but not least, you can pay a visit to the side rotunda where the souvenir shop is located.
A wind chime is mounted on the roof, in front of the pavilion you can see a face in the stone from which a small waterfall is splashing.
Like all the works of Manrique, representative par excellence of the soul of Lanzarote, the cactus garden is an ode to life in the midst of apparent bleakness, a symbol of everything that Lanzarote has always stood for:
The work of man transforming the environment and helping life to triumph over the inanimate.
Ticket to Jardín de Cactus | Spain - Lonely Planet

 

César Manrique (24 April 1919 – 25 September 1992) was a Spanish artist, sculptor, architect and activist from Lanzarote.

 

César Manrique: 100 Jahre Leben | Hoopoe Villas Lanzarote

 

Manrique was born in Arrecife, Lanzarote.

He fought in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer in the artillery unit on Franco’s side.

 

Infobox collage for Spanish Civil War.jpg

 

He attended the University of La Laguna to study architecture, but after two years he quit his studies.

 

Seal of University of La Laguna.png

 

He moved to Madrid in 1945 and received a scholarship for the Art School of San Fernando, where he graduated as a teacher of art and painting.

 

Palacio de Goyeneche - Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.jpg

 

Between 1964 and 1966 he lived in New York City, where a grant from Nelson Rockefeller allowed him to rent his own studio.

He painted many works in New York, which were exhibited in the prestigious “Catherine Viviano” gallery.

 

 

Manrique returned to Lanzarote in 1966.

His legacy on the island includes:

  • the art, culture and tourism centre at Jameos del Agua (1963 – 1987)

Jameos del Agua – Fundación César Manrique

 

  • his Volcano House, Taro de Tahiche (1968)

 

Spain Archives | Mari's World

 

  • the restaurant at the restored Castillo de San José at Arrecife (1976)

 

Restaurant QuéMUAC-Castillo de San José

 

  • the visitors center at the Timanfaya National Park (1971)

 

Timanfaya National Park - Auszeit Lanzarote - Holidays on Lanzarote

 

  • his Palm Grove House at Haria (1986)

 

Haus-Museum César Manrique. Haría

 

  • the Mirador del Rio (1973)

 

Mirador del Río – Fundación César Manrique

 

  • the Jardin de Cactus at Guatiza (1991)

 

Jardin de cactus, obra de Cesar Manrique - Picture of Lanzarote ...

 

He had a major influence on the planning regulations on Lanzarote following his recognition of its potential for tourism and lobbied successfully to encourage the sustainable development of the industry.

One aspect of this is the lack of high rise hotels on the island.

Those that are there are in generally keeping with the use of traditional colours in their exterior decoration.

 

Lanzarote Tour. Das Beste von Künstler César Manrique - Reiseblog

 

As my wife and I drive around the Island we have made it one of our goals to see as much of Manrique’s legacy as we can during our six days here.

I find myself wondering what he would think of this day’s events.

 

Los periodistas Ignacio Escolar Y Olga Rodríguez inauguran el ...

 

I imagine he would have no great love for either Russia or America in terms of their attitudes towards Afghanistan, though he would probably be no fan of the Taliban either, especially in regards to their destruction of any cultural monuments that are not sufficiently reflective of Islam.

 

Flag of Afghanistan | Britannica

 

In 1999, Mullah Omar issued a decree protecting the Buddha statues at Bamyan, two 6th-century monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan.

But in March 2001, the statues were destroyed by the Taliban of Mullah Omar, following a decree stating:

“All the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed.”

 

Mohammed Omar | Dictators Wiki | Fandom

 

Yahya Massoud, brother of the anti-Taliban and resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, recalls the following incident after the destruction of the Buddha statues at Bamyan:

It was the spring of 2001.

I was in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, together with my brother Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Afghan resistance against the Taliban, and Bismillah Khan, who currently serves as Afghanistan’s interior minister.

One of our commanders, Commandant Momin, wanted us to see 30 Taliban fighters who had been taken hostage after a gun battle.

My brother agreed to meet them.

I remember that his first question concerned the centuries-old Buddha statues that were dynamited by the Taliban in March of that year, shortly before our encounter.

Two Taliban combatants from Kandahar confidently responded that worshiping anything outside of Islam was unacceptable and that therefore these statues had to be destroyed.

My brother looked at them and said, this time in Pashto:

‘There are still many sun- worshippers in this country.

Will you also try to get rid of the sun and drop darkness over the Earth?’

 

dhamma musings: The Big Buddhas Of Bamiyan

 

I imagine that he would be on the side of Papuans desire for independence from Indonesia, though he might have approved of the violence used by either side of the ongoing conflict between Western New Guinea (Papua) and the Indonesian authorities.

 

Flag of Papua

 

I imagine he would be following with great interest the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference held from 2  to 16 December in Katowice, Poland.

A worldly wise and environmentally conscious artist like Manrique would probably have shared the opinion of many that Donald Trump was / is an idiot to withdraw America from the Paris Agreement, for the sole goal of dismantling and erasing any legacy that his predecessor Barack Obama had created.

 

COP24 Logo.png

 

The Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

This should be done by peaking emissions as soon as possible, in order to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in the second half of the 21st century.

It also aims to increase the ability of parties to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and make “finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming.

No mechanism forces a country to set a specific emissions target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets.

 

 

In June 2017, Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s 2016 term.

In practice, changes in United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement have already been put in place.

 

Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is no “hoax ...

 

Manrique would have followed yesterday’s Andalucia election results with avid fascination and especially the Constitutional Crisis just ended before we flew to Lanzarote.

 

Map of Andalusia

 

The 2017–18 Spanish constitutional crisis, also known as the Catalan crisis, was a political conflict between the Government of Spain and the Generalitat de Catalunya under former President Carles Puigdemont—the government of the autonomous community of Catalonia until 28 October 2017—over the issue of Catalan independence.

 

E.U-Catalonia.png

 

It started after the law intending to allow the 2017 Catalan independence referendum was denounced by the Spanish government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and subsequently suspended by the Constitutional Court until it ruled on the issue.

Some international media outlets have described the events as “one of the worst political crises in modern Spanish history”.

 

Madrid - Tribunal Constitucional 7.JPG

Above: Constitutional Court, Madrid

 

Though Manrique’s surviving the Spanish Civil War and the reign of France might have made his opinion as to the importance of this chapter in Spanish history differ from modern day commentators.

 

Puigdemont‘s government announced that neither central Spanish authorities nor the courts would halt their plans and that it intended to hold the vote anyway, sparking a legal backlash that quickly spread from the Spanish and Catalan governments to Catalan municipalities—as local mayors were urged by the Generalitat to provide logistical support and help for the electoral process to be carried out—as well as to the Constitutional Court, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia and state prosecutors.

 

Retrat oficial del President Carles Puigdemont cropped.jpg

 

By 15 September, as pro-Catalan independence parties began their referendum campaigns, the Spanish government had launched an all-out legal offensive to thwart the upcoming vote, including threats of a financial takeover of much of the Catalan budget, police seizing pro-referendum posters, pamphlets and leaflets which had been regarded as illegal and criminal investigations ordered on the over 700 local mayors who had publicly agreed to help stage the referendum.

Tensions between the two sides reached a critical point after Spanish police raided the Catalan government headquarters in Barcelona on 20 September, at the start of Operation Anubis, and arrested fourteen senior Catalan officials.

This led to protests outside the Catalan economy department which saw Civil Guard officers trapped inside the building for hours and several vehicles vandalized.

 

 

The referendum was eventually held, albeit without meeting minimum standards for elections and amid low turnout and police crackdown which at first seemed to have ended with hundreds injured, but was later rectified by the media since they were all deceived by the Catalan authorities, who had issued the Health Department to mix injured numbers with catered numbers, resulting in inflated figures.

Local hospitals reported figures of up to four injured people, two of them in critical state, one for a gum ball shot and the other one due to a heart attack.

Also the Spanish Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that up to 431 officers were injured, bruised or even bitten.

 

 

On 10 October, Puigdemont ambiguously declared and suspended independence during a speech in the Parliament of Catalonia, arguing his move was directed at entering talks with Spain.

The Spanish government required Puigdemont to clarify whether he had declared independence or not, to which it received no clear answer.

A further requirement was met with an implicit threat from the Generalitat that it would lift the suspension on the independence declaration if Spain “continued its repression“, in response to the imprisonment of the leaders of pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, accused of sedition by the National Court because of their involvement in the 20 September events.

 

Asamblea Nacional Catalana (logotipo).svg

 

On 21 October, it was announced by Prime Minister Rajoy that Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution would be invoked, leading to direct rule over Catalonia by the Spanish government once approved by the Senate.

 

Mariano Rajoy in 2018.jpg

 

On 27 October, the Catalan parliament voted in a secret ballot to unilaterally declare independence from Spain, with some deputies boycotting a vote considered illegal for violating the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Spain, as the lawyers of the Parliament of Catalonia warned.

As a result, the government of Spain invoked the Constitution to remove the regional authorities and enforce direct rule the next day, with a regional election being subsequently called for 21 December 2017 to elect a new Parliament of Catalonia.

Catalan Declaration of Independence.jpg

Puigdemont and part of his cabinet fled to Belgium after being ousted, as the Spanish Attorney General pressed for charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds against them.

 

Spanish Judiciary Badge-Public Prosecutor.svg

 

We learned this morning that a far-right party in Spain broke new political ground Sunday after winning 12 seats in a regional election for the first time since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

In another sign that the far-right is gaining momentum in Europe, the Vox party gained its success in Andalucia, an area in the south of the country which has suffered with high unemployment and is one of the flashpoints for the country’s battle with illegal immigration.
VOX logo.svg
Its success was lauded by French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, who tweeted:
“Strong and warm congratulations to my friends from Vox, who tonight in Spain scored a meaningful result for such a young and dynamic movement.”
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen announces 2022 presidential bid
Vox has attracted voters with its hard line stance on illegal immigration, its opposition to Catalan independence and its calls for Gibraltar to be returned to Spain.
Gibraltar – British Style at the tip of Spain - Landscape and ...
It could now find itself in a position as kingmaker with the ruling Socialist party failing to secure enough seats to command a majority.
“We are the ones who will bring about change, progress and the reconquest,” Francisco Serrano, Vox’s candidate in Andalusia told a loud crowd gathered in Seville, Reuters reported Sunday.
Francisco Serrano (@FSerranoCastro) | Twitter
The Socialists, who won 33 seats, said Vox’s success should be viewed as “very serious.”
This phenomenon we have seen in the rest of Europe and the world has now reached Spain and is entering the Andalusia parliament,” Susana Diaz, the Socialist candidate in the region, told supporters, according to Reuters.
File:Zoido con Susana Díaz (cropped).jpg - Wikipedia
The results in Andalucia, a region where the Socialist party has governed since the first post-Franco elections in 1982, are likely to spark fears that the far-right could gain further influence in a series of local and European elections in May 2019.
Vox will now have to wait to find out whether it will be approached to be part of rightwing coalition that would be led by the conservative People’s Party, which came second.
Its national leader Pablo Casado said it will hold talks with all the parties to the right of the Socialists, Reuters reported.
Casado deja la puerta abierta: "Los Pactos de la Moncloa son ...
The result is also a setback for Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office in June following a corruption scandal.
“My government will continue to push ahead with a pro-reform, pro- European project,” he tweeted on Monday.
The results in Andalucía strengthen our compromise to defend the constitution and democracy against fear.
Spain is not scheduled to hold a general election until 2020, though there is speculation the vote could be brought forward if Sanchez’s minority government fail to pass a budget.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez calls general election for April 28
(Update: 10 April 2020

After the rejection of his budget, Sánchez called an early general election for 28 April 2019, making a television announcement in which he declared that “between doing nothing and continuing with the former budget and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I chose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense“.

Sánchez’s party the PSOE won the election, obtaining 29% of the vote which translated into 123 seats in the Congress of Deputies, well over the 85 seats and 23% share of the vote the party obtained in the 2016 election.

PSOE also won a majority in the Senate.

Whilst the PSOE were 53 seats short of the 176 seats needed for an outright majority in the Congress of Deputies, a three-way split in the centre-right vote assured that it was the only party that could realistically form a government.

 

Palacio de las Cortes, Madrid - Wikipedia

 

On 6 June 2019, King Felipe VI, having previously held prospective meetings with the spokespeople of the political groups with representation in the new Congress of Deputies, formally proposed Sánchez as prospective Prime Minister.

Sánchez accepted the task of trying to form a government “with honor and responsibility“.

 

Spanish king renounces inheritance from scandal-hit father | News ...

 

Several weeks of negotiations with the Podemos Party ended in an agreement that Sánchez would appoint several Podemos members to the Cabinet, although not the party’s leader Pablo Iglesias.

But in the final voting session, Podemos rejected the agreement and led Sánchez to try a second chance to be inaugurated in September.

 

Pablo Iglesias Thinks There Is an Alternative

 

Following the results of the November 2019 Spanish general election, on 12 November 2019, Pedro Sánchez and Iglesias announced a preliminary agreement between PSOE and Unidas Podemos to rule together creating the first coalition government of the Spanish democracy, for all purposes a minority coalition as it did not enjoy a qualified majority at the Lower House, thus needing further support or abstention from other parliamentary forces in order to get through.

 

Spain Flag

 

On 7 January 2020, Pedro Sánchez earned a second mandate as Prime Minister after receiving a plurality of votes in the second round vote of his investiture at the Congress of Deputies.

He was then once again sworn in as Prime Minister by King Felipe on 8 January 2020.

Soon after, Sánchez proceeded to form a new cabinet with 22 ministers and four vice-presidencies, who assumed office on 13 January 2020.

 

Spain Maps | Maps of Spain

 

Because of the corona virus pandemic, on 13 March 2020, Sánchez announced a declaration of the constitutional state of alarm in the nation for a period of 15 days, to become effective the following day after the approval of the Council of Ministers, becoming the second time in democratic history and the first time with this magnitude.

The following day imposed a nationwide lockdown, banning all trips that were not force majeure and announced it may intervene in companies to guarantee supplies.

 

COVID-19 outbreak Spain per capita cases map.svg

 

The 2020 corona virus pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Spain on 31 January 2020, when a German tourist tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in La Gomera, Canary Islands.

 

Canary Islands Political Map With Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran ...

 

By 24 February, Spain confirmed multiple cases related to the Italian cluster, originating from a medical doctor from Lombardy, Italy, who was on holiday in Tenerife.

Other cases involving individuals who visited Italy were also discovered in Peninsular Spain.

 

Novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) pandemic - DG ECHO Daily Map | 20 ...

 

By 13 March, cases had been registered in all 50 provinces of the country.

A state of alarm and national lockdown was imposed on 14 March.

 

Spain's Coronavirus deaths surpass 1,300, close to 25,000 cases ...

 

On 29 March it was announced that, beginning the following day, all non-essential workers were to stay home for the next 14 days.

 

Latest developments on the coronavirus | The Young Witness | Young ...

 

By late March, the Community of Madrid has recorded the most cases and deaths in the country.

Medical professionals and those who live in retirement homes have experienced especially high infection rates.

 

The 19 Coolest & Best Airbnbs in Madrid, Spain | Airbnb Madrid [2020]

 

On 25 March 2020, the death toll in Spain surpassed that reported in mainland China and only Italy had a higher death toll globally.

On 2 April, 950 people died of the virus in a 24-hour period—at the time, the most by any country in a single day.

 

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery – Madrid, Spain - Atlas Obscura

 

The next day, Spain surpassed Italy in total cases and is now second only to the United States.

As of 7 April, Spain has the third largest number of confirmed cases per capita, behind Iceland and Luxembourg, not counting microstates.

As of 9 April 2020, there have been 153,222 confirmed cases with 52,165 recoveries and 15,447 deaths in Spain.

 

Digital political map of Spain 1466 | The World of Maps.com

 

The actual number of cases, however, is likely to be much higher, as many people with only mild or no symptoms are unlikely to have been tested.

The number of deceased is also believed to be an underestimate due to lack of testing and reporting, perhaps by as much as 10,000 according to excess mortality analysis.

 

Coronavirus: Europeans warned to expect months of disruption ...

 

During the pandemic, the healthcare system is using triage, denying resources to elderly patients.

Furthermore, infected elderly people living in nursing homes are being rejected by hospitals.

 

Three women over 90 recover from coronavirus at Nahariya hospital ...

 

As of 7 April 2020, the Canary Islands have 1,824 confirmed Covina-19 cases.

Of these, 730 have been hospitalized, 140 in intensive care units, 92 have died, 359 have recovered.

 

Canary Island hotel on lock-down over coronavirus | Baltic News ...

 

Had Manrique been alive in 2018 he would have been 98 years old but he was killed in a car crash in 1992.

Had he been alive in 2020, chances are strong that at his advanced age he would have been vulnerable to Covina-19 as many of the elderly are.)

 

César Manrique, sa vie et son oeuvre | Fondarch

 

As we wander amongst the cacti, row after row, terrase level atop terrase Level, I find myself wondering why Manrique chose such a plant not native to the Island.

 

Jardin de Cactus (Guatiza) : 2020 Ce qu'il faut savoir pour votre ...

 

From Manrique’s writings it is certainly clear of how he felt about nature:

Nature’s freedom has modelled my freedom in life, as an artist and as a man.

 

Manrique Tour: geführte tour nach Cueva de los Verdes, Jardín de ...

 

I want to extract harmony from the Earth to unify it with my feeling for art.

 

Jardin de Cactus Admission Ticket in Lanzarote

 

We have to create a new universal conscience in order to try and save the natural environment from the encroachment of human egoism, capable only of seeing the benefits of economic interests in the thorough destruction of nature.

 

Jardín de cactus y suculentas no cactáceas | Jardin mexicain ...

 

We must find time to enjoy contact with Mother Nature.

She teaches us to behold her awe-inspiring aesthetics and creativity.

 

Tourismus in Lanzarote: Jardín de Cactus, Kactusgarten

 

We should learn from and use our own environment to create, without resorting to any preconceived ideas.

This is the fundamental factor which has strengthened Lanzarote’s personality.

We did not have to copy anybody.

Lanzarote taught us this other alternative.

 

Bild "Jardin de Cactus" zu Inseltouren mit Guidos Taxi Lanzarote ...

 

The only thing I aim to achieve is to fuse with nature, so that she may be able to help me and I may be able to help her.

 

THE CACTUS GARDEN LANZAROTE Jardin de Cactus Visitor Guide - Finca ...

 

I wonder if Switzerland’s natural beauty was an inspiration for the feelings he harboured towards the environment, for Manrique, in 1959, participated in collective exhibitions devoted to young Spanish painters in ten cities, including Fribourg and Basel.

 

The Most Breathtaking Mountain Views in Switzerland

 

Manrique painted an oil canvas painting entitled Mexico in 1969.

 

Mexico by César Manrique on artnet

 

The Fundación César Manrique is based in Taro de Tahiche in the former residence of the artist.

The property really reflects the concept that Manrique created, a wonderful mixture of the natural environment and modern design.

 

Institution – Fundación César Manrique

 

Architect Frei Otto said of the Taro de Tahiche property:

It is something special.

It reminds me of similar houses in Pedregal, Mexico.….”

 

Frei Otto im Detail - muenchenarchitektur

 

Did Manrique visit Mexico?

 

Mexico Map and Satellite Image

 

Jardines del Pedregal (Rocky Gardens) or simply El Pedregal (full name: El Pedregal de San Angel) is an upscale residential colonia (neighborhood) in southern Mexico City hosting some of the richest families of Mexico.

It is also known as the home to the biggest mansion in the city.

 

158. Jardines de Pedregal. Mexico D.F.

 

Its borders are San Jerónimo Avenue and Ciudad Universitaria at the north, Insurgentes Avenue at the east and Periférico at south and west.

Its 1,250 acres (5.1 km2) were the major real estate project undertaken by Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán.

 

Luis Barragán Morfín – Wikipedia

 

When it was originally developed, in the mid-1940s in the lava fields of the Pedregal de San Ángel, it was probably the biggest urban development the city had seen.

The first house to be built here was the studio/home of architect Max Cetto.

 

MAX CETTO ARCHITECTURE CASA CETTO 1951 51 1950S MEXICO MEXICO CITY ...

 

The area has changed a lot since its original development but even as its modernist spirit and its original elements of ecosystem protection are gone critics have described its original development, the houses and gardens as a turning point in Mexican architecture.

Some of the old modernist houses have been catalogued as part of Mexico’s national patrimony.

 

Explore the fascinating house museums of Mexico City

 

The Pedregal lava fields were formed by the eruption of the Xitle volcano around 5000 BC, but there are documented eruptions until 400 AD.

The area near what is currently el Pedregal, called Cuicuilco, has been inhabited since 1700 BC.

 

Western side of the circular pyramid at Cuicuilco. (32961693441).jpg

 

Around 300 BC, the area contained what was probably the biggest city in the Valley of Mexico at the time.

Its importance started to decline around 100 BC and was completely empty by 400.

In the mid-1940s Luis Barragán began a project to urbanize the area and protect its ecosystem.

Barragán had the idea of developing El Pedregal promoting the harmony between architecture and landscape.

The first structures built on the site were the Plaza de las Fuentes, or Plaza of the Fountains, the demonstration gardens and demonstration houses by Barragán and Max Cetto.

 

About Max Cetto – Casa-Estudio Max Cetto

 

Other famous architects that contributed to the development of Pedregal include: Francisco Artigas, Enrique Castañeda Tamborrell, José María Buendía, Antonio Attolini, Fernando Ponce Pino, Óscar Urrutia and Manuel Rosen.

For sculptural effect, rocks and vegetation were left largely in place, crevices between the lava formations were cleared as paths, and at several points, rough-cut stairways passed between rock terraces.

These stairways led to pools or fountains of various configurations, or to small patches of flat ground, where loam was brought in and lawns planted.

The smooth surfaces of the lawns and pools provided contrast to the jagged rocks, while fountains lent kinetic and aural elements to the mix.

 

Jardines del Pedregal - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

 

The botanical garden at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) was founded in 1959 by a pair of botanists who wanted to create a space on campus dedicated entirely to the study and preservation of Mexico’s extraordinarily diverse flora.

 

UNAM Botanical Garden – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

 

Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in terms of its vegetation, home to more plant species than the US and Canada combined.

It also has the highest diversity of cactus plants in the world at an estimated 800 recorded species.

 

The secret gardens of Mexico

 

Historically, Mexico City is no stranger to botanical gardens.

 

From top and left: Angel of Independence, Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, Paseo de la Reforma, Torre Latinoamericana, National Palace, Parque La Mexicana in Santa Fe, Monumento a la Revolución, Chapultepec Castle, Palacio de Bellas Artes and Paseo de la Reforma

 

The Aztec emperors kept numerous planted areas of ornamental, medicinal, and edible plants collected from all over the empire, long before the arrival of the Spanish.

The UNAM botanical garden continues this tradition, but with an added focus on conservation, environmental education, and advancing botanical and taxonomic science.

Fittingly, the collection has an enormous collection of endemic cacti, and many of the species on display here are highly endangered due to habitat destruction, overexploitation, and climate change.

But the gardens contain much more than just cacti.

 

UNAM botanical garden - evolution of plants

 

There are areas planted with beautiful ornamental plants, a medicinal plant garden with species used traditionally by indigenous communities, an orchidarium, and many waterlily pools also home to plump koi carp and languid turtles.

The green spaces here make for an ideal place to come and relax away from the chaos of Mexico City life.

 

UNAM Botanical Garden – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

 

The garden is also notable for being built on and around strange volcanic rock formations that were formed by lava flows during the Xitle volcanic eruption, which destroyed the nearby Cuilcuilca civilization in Mexico’s distant past.

As such, many of the gardens’ meandering footpaths pass under, over, and around naturally formed grottoes, ponds, mini waterfalls, and rockeries, making for a unique experience.

 

Botanical Gardens around the World – GringoPotpourri

 

Wildlife can be seen here, too, and it is a particularly good area to spot birds such as woodpeckers, owls, orioles, and hummingbirds.

Also found here are reptiles like rattlesnakes, milksnakes, and lizards, numerous species of butterflies, and even the rare Pedregal tarantula, an endemic species that is found only in this small area of Mexico City.

 

Tarántula del Pedregal (Aphonopelma anitahoffmannae) · NaturaLista

 

The Jardín de Cactus, situated in the Lanzarote village of Guatiza, in a former quarry where volcanic sand (picón) was extracted to spread on cultivated areas to retain moisture.

 

Things to do in Lanzarote - 21+ ideas (Inspiring, Scenic, Fun ...

 

Prickly pears are grown in the area for the production of cochineal.

The cactus garden was created in 1991, the last project of César Manrique.

 

Cesar Manrique (1919-1992) – FTN-blog

 

The botanist Estanislao González Ferrer was responsible for the selection and planting of the specimens.

Estanislao González Ferrer (1930- 1990) was a Spanish botanist, expert in the flora of the Canary Island of Lanzarote.

 

Estanislao González Ferrer – Oplev Lanzarote

 

A flower endemic to the island was found by his disciples, with whom he used to go out to do field work studying and documenting species in situ, and named in his honor: the Helianthemum gonzalez ferreri.

 

BIODIVERSIDAD

 

Estanislao González Ferrer was a Lanzarote native especially involved in the conservation of nature and the historical heritage of his native island, specializing in botany.

In his day he was one of the people commissioned by the Arrecife City Council to form a previous commission for the creation of the city’s museum and among his best-known botanical contributions is his participation as botanical manager in the creation of the well-known Cactus Garden of Lanzarote by César Manrique.

 

Mini jardín de cactus y piedras | Decoration jardin, Jardin en ...

 

A cactus (plural cacti, cactuses, or less commonly, cactus) is a member of the plant family Cactaceae, a family comprising about 127 genera with some 1,750 known species of the order Caryophyllales.

The word “cactus” derives, through Latin, from the Ancient Greek κάκτος, kaktos, a name originally used by Theophrastus for a spiny plant whose identity is now not certain.

Cacti occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

 

Various Cactaceae.jpg

Above: Various Cactaceae 1-Nopalea coccinellifera 2-Cephalocereus senilis 3-Cereus giganteus 4-Mammillaria longimamma 5-Rhipsalis paradoxa 6-Echinocactus longihamatus 7-Echinopsis oxygona 8-Cereus grandiflorus 9-Echinocereus pectinatus 10-Leuchtenbergia principis 11-Phyllocactus ackermanni 12-Melocactus communis

 

Most cacti live in habitats subject to at least some drought.

Many live in extremely dry environments, even being found in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth.

 

 

Cacti show many adaptations to conserve water.

Almost all cacti are succulents, meaning they have thickened, fleshy parts adapted to store water.

Unlike many other succulents, the stem is the only part of most cacti where this vital process takes place.

 

 

Most species of cacti have lost true leaves, retaining only spines, which are highly modified leaves.

As well as defending against herbivores, spines help prevent water loss by reducing air flow close to the cactus and providing some shade.

In the absence of leaves, enlarged stems carry out photosynthesis.

 

 

Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north—except for Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka.

 

Rhipsalis baccifera 01 ies.jpg

 

Cactus spines are produced from specialized structures called areoles, a kind of highly reduced branch.

Areoles are an identifying feature of cacti.

As well as spines, areoles give rise to flowers, which are usually tubular and multi-petaled.

 

 

Many cacti have short growing seasons and long dormancies, and are able to react quickly to any rainfall, helped by an extensive but relatively shallow root system that quickly absorbs any water reaching the ground surface.

Cactus stems are often ribbed or fluted, which allows them to expand and contract easily for quick water absorption after rain, followed by long drought periods.

Like other succulent plants, most cacti employ a special mechanism called “crassulacean acid metabolism” (CAM) as part of photosynthesis.

 

Above: A pineapple, an example of a CAM plant

 

Transpiration, during which carbon dioxide enters the plant and water escapes, does not take place during the day at the same time as photosynthesis, but instead occurs at night.

The plant stores the carbon dioxide it takes in as malic acid, retaining it until daylight returns, and only then using it in photosynthesis.

Because transpiration takes place during the cooler, more humid night hours, water loss is significantly reduced.

Many smaller cacti have globe-shaped stems, combining the highest possible volume for water storage, with the lowest possible surface area for water loss from transpiration.

Above: Overview of transpiration

  1. Water is passively transported into the roots and then into the xylem.
  2. The forces of cohesion and adhesion cause the water molecules to form a column in the xylem.
  3. Water moves from the xylem into the mesophyll cells, evaporates from their surfaces and leaves the plant by diffusion through the stomata

 

The tallest free-standing cactus is Pachycereus pringlei, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m (63 ft), and the smallest is Blossfeldia liliputiana, only about 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter at maturity.

 

Blossfeldia liliputana1MW.jpg

 

A fully grown saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is said to be able to absorb as much as 200 US gallons (760 litres; 170 Impirical gallons) of water during a rainstorm.

 

Carnegiea gigantea in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona during November (58).jpg

 

A few species differ significantly in appearance from most of the family.

At least superficially, plants of the genus Pereskia resemble other trees and shrubs growing around them.

They have persistent leaves, and when older, bark-covered stems.

Their areoles identify them as cacti, and in spite of their appearance, they, too, have many adaptations for water conservation.

Pereskia is considered close to the ancestral species from which all cacti evolved.

 

Pereskia grandifolia2.jpg

 

In tropical regions, other cacti grow as forest climbers and epiphytes (plants that grow on trees).

Their stems are typically flattened, almost leaf-like in appearance, with fewer or even no spines, such as the well-known Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus (in the genus Schlumbergera).

 

Drawing is probably of a pressed specimen as it appears flat; the base is at the bottom and the plant then branches repeatedly – about six times in the longest branch. Most branches end in either buds or regular flowers which are pinkish.

 

Cacti have a variety of uses:

Many species are used as ornamental plants, others are grown for fodder or forage, and others for food (particularly their fruit).

 

Starr 020803-0119 Aleurites moluccana.jpg

 

Cochineal is the product of an insect that lives on some cacti.

As of March 2012, there was still controversy as to the precise dates when humans first entered those areas of the New World where cacti are commonly found, and hence when they might first have used them.

 

 

An archaeological site in Chile has been dated to around 15,000 years ago, suggesting cacti would have been encountered before then.

Early evidence of the use of cacti includes cave paintings in the Serra da Capivara in Brazil, and seeds found in ancient middens (waste dumps) in Mexico and Peru, with dates estimated at 9,000 years ago.

 

Pedra Furada - Serra da Capivara I.jpg

 

Hunter-gatherers likely collected cactus fruits in the wild and brought them back to their camps.

It is not known when cacti were first cultivated.

Opuntias (prickly pears) were used for a variety of purposes by the Aztecs, whose empire, lasting from the 14th to the 16th century, had a complex system of horticulture.

Their capital from the 15th century was Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).

One explanation for the origin of the name is that it includes the Nahuatl word nōchtli, referring to the fruit of an opuntia.

The coat of arms of Mexico shows an eagle perched on a cactus while holding a snake, an image at the center of the myth of the founding of Tenochtitlan.

 

Coat of arms of Mexico.svg

 

The Aztecs symbolically linked the ripe red fruits of an opuntia to human hearts.

Just as the fruit quenches thirst, so offering human hearts to the sun god ensured the sun would keep moving.

 

StaCeciliaAcatitlan.jpg

 

Europeans first encountered cacti when they arrived in the New World late in the 15th century.

Their first landfalls were in the West Indies, where relatively few cactus genera are found.

One of the most common is the genus Melocactus.

Thus, melocacti were possibly among the first cacti seen by Europeans.

 

Melocactus acipinosus 1.jpg

 

Melocactus species were present in English collections of cacti before the end of the 16th century (by 1570 according to one source) where they were called Echinomelocactus, later shortened to Melocactus by Joseph Pitton de Tourneville in the early 18th century.

Cacti, both purely ornamental species and those with edible fruit, continued to arrive in Europe, so Carl Linnaeus was able to name 22 species by 1753.

 

Portrait of Linnaeus on a brown background with the word "Linne" in the top right corner

Above: Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778)

 

One of these, his Cactus opuntia (now part of Opuntia ficus-indica), was described as “fructu majore … nunc in Hispania et Lusitania” (with larger fruit … now in Spain and Portugal), indicative of its early use in Europe.

The plant now known as Opuntia ficus-indica, or the Indian fig cactus, has long been an important source of food.

 

Opuntia22 filtered.jpg

 

The original species is thought to have come from central Mexico, although this is now obscure because the indigenous people of southern North America developed and distributed a range of horticultural varieties (cultivars), including forms of the species and hybrids with other opuntias.

Both the fruit and pads are eaten, the former often under the Spanish name tuna, the latter under the name nopal.

Cultivated forms are often significantly less spiny or even spineless.

The nopal industry in Mexico was said to be worth US$150 million in 2007.

 

 

The Indian fig cactus was probably already present in the Caribbean when the Spanish arrived, and was soon after brought to Europe.

It spread rapidly in the Mediterranean area, both naturally and by being introduced—so much so, early botanists assumed it was native to the area.

Outside the Americas, the Indian fig cactus is an important commercial crop in Sicily, Algeria and other North African countries.

Fruits of other opuntias are also eaten, generally under the same name, tuna.

 

 

Flower buds, particularly of Cylindropuntia species, are also consumed.

Almost any fleshy cactus fruit is edible.

The word pitaya or pitahaya (usually considered to have been taken into Spanish from Haitian Creole) can be applied to a range of “scaly fruit“, particularly those of columnar cacti.

 

 

The fruit of the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) has long been important to the indigenous peoples of northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States, including the Sonoran Desert.

It can be preserved by boiling to produce syrup and by drying.

The syrup can also be fermented to produce an alcoholic drink.

 

 

Fruits of Stenocereus species have also been important food sources in similar parts of North America.

Stenocereus queretaroensis is cultivated for its fruit.

 

 

In more tropical southern areas, the climber Hylocereus undatus provides pitahaya orejona, now widely grown in Asia under the name dragon fruit.

 

 

Other cacti providing edible fruit include species of Echinocereus, Ferocactus, Mammillaria, Myrtillocactus, Pachycereus, Peniocereus and Selenicereus.

The bodies of cacti other than opuntias are less often eaten, although Anderson reported that Neowerdermannia vorwerkii is prepared and eaten like potatoes in upland Bolivia.

 

Neowerdermannia vorwerkii VZ176.jpg

 

A number of species of cacti have been shown to contain psychoactive agents, chemical compounds that can cause changes in mood, perception and cognition through their effects on the brain.

 

Above: An assortment of psychoactive drugs—street drugs and medications:

  1.  cocaine
  2. crack cocaine
  3. methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  4. ephedrine
  5. MDMA (Ecstasy – lavender pill with smile)
  6. mescaline (green dried cactus flesh)
  7. LSD (2×2 blotter in tiny baggie)
  8. psilocybin (dried Psilocybe cubensis mushroom)
  9. Salvia divinorum (10X extract in small baggie)
  10. diphenhydramine (Benadryl – pink pill)
  11. Amanita muscaria (red dried mushroom cap piece)
  12. Tylenol 3 (contains codeine)
  13. codeine containing muscle relaxant
  14. pipe tobacco (top)
  15. bupropion (Zyban – brownish-purple pill)
  16. cannabis (green bud center)
  17. hashish (brown rectangle)

 

Two species have a long history of use by the indigenous peoples of the Americas:

 

  • peyote, Lophophora williamsii, in North America

 

Peyote Cactus.jpg

 

  • the San Pedro cactus, Echinopsis pachanoi, in South America.

 

Starr 070320-5799 Echinopsis pachanoi.jpg

 

Both contain mescaline.

 

Above: Laboratory synthetic mescaline.

Biosynthesized by peyote, this was the first psychedelic compound to be extracted and isolated.

 

L. williamsii is native to northern Mexico and southern Texas.

Individual stems are about 2–6 cm (0.8–2.4 in) high with a diameter of 4–11 cm (1.6–4.3 in), and may be found in clumps up to 1 m (3 ft) wide.

A large part of the stem is usually below ground.

Mescaline is concentrated in the photosynthetic portion of the stem above ground.

The center of the stem, which contains the growing point (the apical meristem), is sunken.

Experienced collectors of peyote remove a thin slice from the top of the plant, leaving the growing point intact, thus allowing the plant to regenerate.

Evidence indicates peyote was in use more than 5,500 years ago.

Dried peyote buttons presumed to be from a site on the Rio Grande, Texas, were radiocarbon dated to around 3780–3660 BC.

Peyote is perceived as a means of accessing the spirit world.

 

Attempts by the Roman Catholic Church to suppress its use after the Spanish conquest were largely unsuccessful, and by the middle of the 20th century, peyote was more widely used than ever by indigenous peoples as far north as Canada.

 

Saint Peter's Basilica

Above: Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

 

It is now used formally by the Native American Church.

USVA headstone emb-12.svg

Under the auspices of what came to be known as the Native American Church, in the 19th century, American Indians in more widespread regions to the north began to use peyote in religious practices, as part of a revival of native spirituality.

Its members refer to peyote as “the sacred medicine“, and use it to combat spiritual, physical, and other social ills.

Concerned about the drug’s psychoactive effects, between the 1880s and 1930s, US authorities attempted to ban Native American religious rituals involving peyote, including the Ghost Dance.

 

 

Today the Native American Church is one among several religious organizations to use peyote as part of its religious practice.

Some users claim the drug connects them to God.

Traditional Navajo belief or ceremonial practice did not mention the use of peyote before its introduction by the neighboring Utes.

The Navajo Nation now has the most members of the Native American Church.

 

 

Dr. John Raleigh Briggs (1851–1907) was the first to draw scientific attention of the Western scientific world to peyote.

 

Early Peyote Research an Interdisciplinary Study

 

Louis Lewin described Anhalonium lewinii in 1888.

 

Louis Lewin – Wikipedia

 

Arthur Heffter conducted self experiments on its effects in 1897.

 

Heffter, Arthur - Pharmacologist, Chemist, Germany*15.06.1859-+ ...

 

Similarly, Norwegian ethnographer Carl Sofus Lumholtz studied and wrote about the use of peyote among the Indians of Mexico.

Lumholtz also reported that, lacking other intoxicants, Texas Rangers captured by Union forces during the American Civil War soaked peyote buttons in water and became “intoxicated with the liquid“.

 

Carl Sofus Lumholtz - Wikipedia

 

The US Dispensatory lists peyote under the name Anhalonium, and states it can be used in various preparations for neurasthenia, hysteria and asthma.

 

Ariocarpus fissuratus2 ies.jpg

 

Lophophora williamsii  or peyote is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.

Peyote is a Spanish word derived from the Nahuatl, or Aztec, peyōtl, meaning “glisten” or “glistening“.

Other sources translate the Nahuatl word as “Divine Messenger“.

Peyote is native to Mexico and southwestern Texas.

It is found primarily in the Chihuahuan Desert and in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí among scrub.

It flowers from March to May, and sometimes as late as September.

The flowers are pink, with thigmotactic anthers (like Opuntia).

 

Chihuahuan Desert.jpg

 

Echinopsis pachanoi is native to Ecuador and Peru.

It is very different in appearance from L. williamsii.

It has tall stems, up to 6 m (20 ft) high, with a diameter of 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in), which branch from the base, giving the whole plant a shrubby or tree-like appearance.

Archaeological evidence of the use of this cactus appears to date back to 2,000–2,300 years ago, with carvings and ceramic objects showing columnar cacti.

Although church authorities under the Spanish attempted to suppress its use, this failed, as shown by the Christian element in the common name “San Pedro cactus” — Saint Peter cactus.

Anderson attributes the name to the belief that just as St Peter holds the keys to heaven, the effects of the cactus allow users “to reach heaven while still on earth.”

It continues to be used for its psychoactive effects, both for spiritual and for healing purposes, often combined with other psychoactive agents, such as Datura ferox and tobacco.

Several other species of Echinopsis, including E. peruviana, also contain mescaline.

 

 

Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the substituted phenethylamine class, known for its hallucinogenic effects comparable to those of LSD and psilocybin.

It occurs naturally in the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi), the Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruviana) and other members of the plant family Cactaceae.

It is also found in small amounts in certain members of the bean family, Fabaceae, including Acacia berlandieri.

However those claims concerning Acacia species have been challenged and have been unsupported in additional analysis.

 

Säulenkaktus Blüte.JPG

 

Peyote has been used for at least 5,700 years by Native Americans in Mexico.

Europeans noted use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies upon early contact, notably by the Huichols in Mexico.

Other mescaline-containing cacti such as the San Pedro have a long history of use in South America, from Peru to Ecuador.

In traditional peyote preparations, the top of the cactus is cut off, leaving the large tap root along with a ring of green photosynthesizing area to grow new heads.

These heads are then dried to make disc-shaped buttons.

Buttons are chewed to produce the effects or soaked in water to drink.

However, the taste of the cactus is bitter, so contemporary users will often grind it into a powder and pour it in capsules to avoid having to taste it.

The usual human dosage is 200–400 milligrams of mescaline sulfate or 178–356 milligrams of mescaline hydrochloride.

The average 76 mm (3.0 in) button contains about 25 mg mescaline.

 

How much Peyote cactus do I need for a trip?

 

Mescaline was first isolated and identified in 1897 by the German chemist Arthur Heffter and first synthesized in 1918 by Ernst Späth.

 

Ernst Späth.jpg

 

Frederick Smith, who in 1914 became head of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, now the Community of Christ, promoted the use of peyote during services, to induce the religious ecstasy he said he had experienced at ceremonies of various Native American nations.

 

During the Second World War, mescaline saw use in the infamous human experimentation programme of the Third Reich.

Nazi physician Kurt Plötner forced concentration-camp prisoners to take mescaline to see whether it would serve as a ‘truth serum’ during interrogation.

 

dr. kurt Plötner | In Search of Black Assassins

 

The US Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, was testing mescaline as a ‘truth drug’ around the same time.

However, the concept was quickly rejected:

The nausea stopped participants trusting their interrogators.

Office of Strategic Services Insignia.svg

The CIA later recruited Plötner for a project that evolved into the mind-control programme MKUltra.

 

In 1955, English politician Christopher Mayhew took part in an experiment for BBC’s Panorama, in which he ingested 400 mg of mescaline under the supervision of psychiatrist Humphry Osmond.

Though the recording was deemed too controversial and ultimately omitted from the show, Mayhew praised the experience, calling it “the most interesting thing I ever did”.

 

BBC News | In pictures: Past Faces of Panorama, Christopher Mayhew ...

 

Artists and bohemians – mainly in Europe – tested mescaline’s creative potential.

Psychiatrists and psychologists jumped onto the bandwagon.

They administered it to writers, artists and philosophers, presented them with intellectual stimuli and observed their responses.

No pattern emerged.

  • British surrealist painter of the 1930s, Julian Trevelyan, found ingestion inspiring.

 

Julian Trevelyan biography | Modern British & French Art Dealer

 

  • Basil Beaumont experienced “excruciating pain and fear“.

 

Basil Beaumont - Wikipedia

 

  • Jean-Paul Sartre took mescaline shortly before the publication of his first book, L’Imaginaire.

He had a bad trip during which he was menaced by sea creatures.

For many years following this, he persistently experienced being followed by lobsters, and became a patient of Jacques Lacan in hopes of being rid of them.

Lobsters and crabs figure in his novel Nausea.

 

Jean-Paul Sartre | Biography, Books, Philosophy, & Facts | Britannica

 

  • Havelock Ellis was the author of one of the first written reports to the public about an experience with mescaline (1898).

 

Havelock Ellis - Wikipedia

 

  • Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Polish writer, artist and philosopher, experimented with mescaline and described his experience in a 1932 book Nikotyna Alkohol Kokaina Peyotl Morfina Eter.

 

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz – Wikipedia

 

  • Aldous Huxley described his experience with mescaline in the essay The Doors of Perception (1954).

 

Aldous Huxley - Author, Screenwriter - Biography

 

  • Martin Kemp, English actor and former Spandau Ballet bassist, described in an interview experiencing mescaline at a late-night party during the height of his musical career in the 1980s:

“Mescaline is the drug the Beatles wrote Rubber Soul about.

 

Vinyl-Aufkleber BEATLES - rubber soul bei EuroPosters

 

It turns everything to rubber.

Every step you take feels like rubber.

It is a lot of fun, I have to say.

But it goes on for hours – like eight hours”.

 

Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp on his brother Gary: 'We were ...

 

  • Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries described using peyote that a friend smuggled from Mexico.

 

The Basketball Diaries Poster.jpg

 

  • Hunter S. Thompson wrote an extremely detailed account of his first use of mescaline in First Visit with Mescalito, and it appeared in his book Songs of the Doomed, as well as featuring heavily in his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

 

Hunter S. Thompson - Author, Journalist - Biography

 

  • Psychedelic research pioneer Alexander Shulgin said he was first inspired to explore psychedelic compounds by a mescaline experience.

 

Doku über Alexander Shulgin: Ecstasy Bandits – Lucys Rausch

 

  • Bryan Wynter produced Mars Ascends after trying the substance his first time.

 

Mars Ascends', Bryan Wynter, 1956 | Tate

 

  • According to Paul Strathern’s book Sartre in 90 Minutes, Jean-Paul Sartre experimented with mescaline, and his description of ultimate reality (in Nausea) as “viscous and obscene” was written under mescaline’s influence.

 

Sartre in 90 Minutes (Philosophers in 90 Minutes Series): Paul ...

 

  • George Carlin mentions mescaline use during his youth while being interviewed.

 

A Life in Focus: George Carlin, American standup comedian who ...

 

  • Carlos Santana told in 1989 about his mescaline use in a Rolling Stone interview.

 

Carlos Santana On World Cafe : World Cafe : NPR

 

  • Disney animator Ward Kimball described participating in a study of mescaline and peyote conducted by UCLA in the 1960s.

 

Ward Kimball - D23

 

  • Michael Cera used real mescaline for the movie Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, as expressed in an interview.

 

Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus.jpg

 

  • Philip K. Dick was inspired to write Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said after taking mescaline.

 

FlowMyTearsThePolicemanSaid(1stEd).jpg

 

Before the 20th century, just a handful of people outside Indigenous American cultures had tried the extracts, but their reports sparked medical, spiritual and recreational interest for many decades.

The powers of endurance needed to take the drug became more widely known:

It induces hours of nausea and often vomiting before the hallucinations begin.

 

(In contrast to alcohol, mescaline gives you the hangover first.)

 

The hallucinations are now thought to be caused mainly by mescaline binding to and activating serotonin receptors in the brain.

In traditional ceremonial use, the hallucination phase has been reported as consistently transporting.

But outside these cultures, those eager to experiment have had disconcertingly unpredictable experiences.

 

In 1887, Texan physician John Raleigh Briggs was the first to describe, in a medical journal, his own, rather violent, symptoms — including a racing heart and difficulties breathing — after eating a small part of a ‘button’, or dried crown, of a peyote cactus.

 

Turn on, tune in and drop mescaline? One local doctor did. - Oak Cliff

 

The pharmaceutical company Parke–Davis in Detroit, Michigan, which had been investigating botanical sources of potential drugs from South America and elsewhere, took note.

The company was seeking an alternative to cocaine, whose addictive properties had become apparent.

It began offering peyote tincture as a respiratory stimulant and heart tonic in 1893.

A flurry of scientific trials began.

There was scant regard for ethics and safety — for the scientists, who frequently tested the mescaline themselves, or for test subjects.

 

Parke-Davis - Wikipedia

 

In 1895, two reports demonstrating the drug’s unpredictability came out of what is now the George Washington University in Washington DC.

In one, a young, unnamed chemist chewed peyote buttons and then noted down his symptoms:

Nausea followed by pleasant visions over which he had some control, then depression and insomnia for 18 hours.

In the other, two scientists observed the drug’s effects on a 24-year-old man, who became deluded and paranoid.

 

George Washington University - Wikipedia

 

In New York City, pharmacologists Alwyn Knauer and William Maloney carried out a more extensive trial, including 23 people, in 1913.

They hoped that mescaline, as a hallucinogen, might provide insight into the psychotic phenomena associated with schizophrenia.

It didn’t.

 

Above: John Nash, an American mathematician and joint recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics, who had schizophrenia.

His life was the subject of the 1998 book, A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar.

 

A Beautiful Mind Poster.jpg

 

The pair diligently recorded participants’ running commentaries on their hallucinations, but found no common characteristics.

(In later studies, people with schizophrenia could easily tell the difference between their own hallucinations and those induced by the drug.)

The pace of trials picked up after synthetic mescaline became available.

 

Chemist Ernst Späth at the University of Vienna was first to synthesize it, in 1919, and the German pharmaceutical company Merck marketed it the following year.

Yet trial outcomes did not become more reliable or illuminating.

Over the next couple of decades, theories that mescaline might reveal the biological basis of schizophrenia or help to cure other psychological disorders were serially dashed.

 

A white cloth with seemingly random, unconnected text sewn into it using multiple colors of thread

Above: A white cloth with seemingly random, unconnected text sewn into it using multiple colors of thread, embroidered by a schizophrenic

 

In the 1950s, the attention of biomedical researchers abruptly switched to a newly synthesized molecule with similar hallucinogenic properties but few physical side effects:

Lysergic acid diesthylamide (LSD).

 

 

First synthesized by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffmann in 1938, LSD went on to become a recreational drug of choice in the 1960s hippy era.

And, like mescaline, LSD teased psychiatrists without delivering a cure.

 

The First LSD Trip - Audio Documentary - Albert Hoffmann - YouTube

 

A study published in 2007 found no evidence of long-term cognitive problems related to peyote use in Native American Church ceremonies, but researchers stressed their results may not apply to those who use peyote in other contexts.

A four-year large-scale study of Navajo who regularly ingested peyote found only one case where peyote was associated with a psychotic break in an otherwise healthy person.

 

Flag of The Navajo Nation

Above: Flag of the Navajo Nation

 

Other psychotic episodes were attributed to peyote use in conjunction with pre-existing substance abuse or mental health problems.

Later research found that those with pre-existing mental health issues are more likely to have adverse reactions to peyote.

Peyote use does not appear to be associated with hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (a.k.a. “flashbacks“) after religious use.

Peyote does not seem to be associated with physical dependence, but some users may experience psychological dependence.

Peyote can have strong emetic effects, and one death has been attributed to esophageal bleeding caused by vomiting after peyote ingestion in a Native American patient with a history of alcohol abuse.

Peyote is also known to cause potentially serious variations in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and pupillary dilation.

Research into the Huichol natives of central-western Mexico, who have taken peyote regularly for an estimated 1,500 years or more, found no evidence of chromosome damage in either men or women.

 

Huichol Woman artisans.jpg

 

Mescaline is listed as a Schedule III controlled substance under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but peyote is specifically exempt.

Possession and use of peyote plants is legal.

 

Petition · Put the Canadian flag first · Change.org

 

This is not so in Switzerland:

Psychoactive cacti possession, sale, transport or cultivation is illegal.

 

Peyote family. Mum, kids, grandkids. 50 pence piece for scale ...

 

Cacti were cultivated as ornamental plants from the time they were first brought from the New World.

By the early 1800s, enthusiasts in Europe had large collections (often including other succulents alongside cacti).

Rare plants were sold for very high prices.

Suppliers of cacti and other succulents employed collectors to obtain plants from the wild, in addition to growing their own.

In the late 1800s, collectors turned to orchids, and cacti became less popular, although never disappearing from cultivation.

 

RARE PILOSOCEREUS PURPUREUS @J@ exotic color columnar cacti cactus ...

 

Cacti are often grown in greenhouses, particularly in regions unsuited to the cultivation of cacti outdoors, such the northern parts of Europe and North America.

Here, they may be kept in pots or grown in the ground.

 

My Cacti & Succulent plant Greenhouse collection in Ireland UPDATE ...

 

Cacti are also grown as houseplants, many being tolerant of the often dry atmosphere.

Cacti in pots may be placed outside in the summer to ornament gardens or patios, and then kept under cover during the winter.

Less drought-resistant epiphytes, such as epiphyllum hybrids, Schlumbergera (the Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus) and Hatiora (the Easter cactus), are widely cultivated as houseplants.

Hatiora saliscornioides BlKakteenT95.jpg

 

Cacti may also be planted outdoors in regions with suitable climates.

Concern for water conservation in arid regions has led to the promotion of gardens requiring less watering (xeriscaping).

For example, in California, the East Bay Municipal Utility District sponsored the publication of a book on plants and landscapes for summer-dry climates.

Cacti are one group of drought-resistant plants recommended for dry landscape gardening.

 

 

Cacti have many other uses.

 

They are used for human food and as fodder for animals, usually after burning off their spines.

 

In addition to their use as psychoactive agents, some cacti are employed in herbal medicine.

The practice of using various species of Opuntia in this way has spread from the Americas, where they naturally occur, to other regions where they grow, such as India.

 

 

Cochineal is a red dye produced by a scale insect that lives on species of Opuntia.

Long used by the peoples of Central and North America, demand fell rapidly when European manufacturers began to produce synthetic dyes in the middle of the 19th century.

Commercial production has now increased following a rise in demand for natural dyes.

 

 

Cacti are used as construction materials.

Living cactus fences are employed as barricades around buildings to prevent people breaking in.

They also used to corral animals.

 

 

The woody parts of cacti, such as Cereus repandus and Echinopsis atacamensis, are used in buildings and in furniture.

The frames of wattle and daub houses built by the Seri people of Mexico may use parts of Carnegiea gigantea.

The very fine spines and hairs (trichomes) of some cacti were used as a source of fiber for filling pillows and in weaving.

 

 

The popularity of cacti means many books are devoted to their cultivation.

The purpose of the growing medium is to provide support and to store water, oxygen and dissolved minerals to feed the plant.

In the case of cacti, there is general agreement that an open medium with a high air content is important.

When cacti are grown in containers, recommendations as to how this should be achieved vary greatly.

If asked to describe a perfect growing medium, “ten growers would give 20 different answers“.

The general recommendation of 25–75% organic-based material, the rest being inorganic such as pumice, perlite or grit, is supported by many sources.

 

Secrets of Growing Cacti and Succulents | Indoor cactus plants ...

 

Semi-desert cacti need careful watering.

General advice is hard to give, since the frequency of watering required depends on where the cacti are being grown, the nature of the growing medium, and the original habitat of the cacti.

More cacti are lost through the “untimely application of water than for any other reason” and that even during the dormant winter season, cacti need some water.

 

How to Save a Dying Cactus: 15 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

 

Other sources say that water can be withheld during winter (November to March in the Northern Hemisphere).

Another issue is the hardness of the water.

Where it is necessary to use hard water, regular re-potting is recommended to avoid the build up of salts.

The general advice given is that during the growing season, cacti should be allowed to dry out between thorough waterings.

A water meter can help in determining when the soil is dry.

 

Kamstrup introduces first ever smart water meter with Sigfox ...

 

Although semi-desert cacti may be exposed to high light levels in the wild, they may still need some shading when subjected to the higher light levels and temperatures of a greenhouse in summer.

Allowing the temperature to rise above 32 °C (90 °F) is not recommended.

 

What Temperature Is Too Hot For Cactus? | CactusWay

 

The minimum winter temperature required depends very much on the species of cactus involved.

For a mixed collection, a minimum temperature of between 5 °C (41 °F) and 10 °C (50 °F) is often suggested, except for cold-sensitive genera such as Melocactus and Discocactus.

Some cacti, particularly those from the high Andes, are fully frost-hardy when kept dry (e.g. Rebutia minuscula survives temperatures down to −9 °C (16 °F) in cultivation) and may flower better when exposed to a period of cold.

 

Is there a such thing as a snow cactus? - Quora

 

Cacti can be propagated by seed, cuttings or grafting.

Seed sown early in the year produces seedlings that benefit from a longer growing period.

Seed is sown in a moist growing medium and then kept in a covered environment, until 7–10 days after germination, to avoid drying out.

A very wet growing medium can cause both seeds and seedlings to rot.

A temperature range of 18–30 °C (64–86 °F) is suggested for germination.

Soil temperatures of around 22 °C (72 °F) promote the best root growth.

Low light levels are sufficient during germination, but afterwards semi-desert cacti need higher light levels to produce strong growth, although acclimatization is needed to conditions in a greenhouse, such as higher temperatures and strong sunlight.

 

Amazon.com : Cactus Seed Mix - Mixed Cacti Species - Variety ...

Reproduction by cuttings makes use of parts of a plant that can grow roots.

Some cacti produce “pads” or “joints” that can be detached or cleanly cut off.

Other cacti produce offsets that can be removed.

Otherwise, stem cuttings can be made, ideally from relatively new growth.

It is recommended that any cut surfaces be allowed to dry for a period of several days to several weeks until a callus forms over the cut surface.

Rooting can then take place in an appropriate growing medium at a temperature of around 22 °C (72 °F).

 

MADAGASCAR: Cactus plants increase biogas production tenfold ...

 

Grafting is used for species difficult to grow well in cultivation or that cannot grow independently, such as some chlorophyll-free forms with white, yellow or red bodies, or some forms that show abnormal growth (e.g., cristate or monstrose forms).

For the host plant (the stock), growers choose one that grows strongly in cultivation and is compatible with the plant to be propagated: the scion.

The grower makes cuts on both stock and scion and joins the two, binding them together while they unite.

Various kinds of graft are used—flat grafts, where both scion and stock are of similar diameters, and cleft grafts, where a smaller scion is inserted into a cleft made in the stock.

Commercially, huge numbers of cacti are produced annually.

 

Tips for Grafting Cacti | World of Succulents

 

For example, in 2002 in Korea alone, 49 million plants were propagated, with a value of almost US$9 million.

Most of them (31 million plants) were propagated by grafting.

 

Flag of South Korea - Colours, Meaning, History

 

A range of pests attack cacti in cultivation.

Those that feed on sap include:

  • mealybugs, living on both stems and roots

 

Mealybugs of flower stem, Yogyakarta, 2014-10-31.jpg

 

  • scale insects, generally only found on stems

 

 

  • whiteflies, which are said to be an “infrequent” pest of cacti

 

Weisse-Fliege.jpg

 

  • red spider mites, which are very small but can occur in large numbers, constructing a fine web around themselves and badly marking the cactus via their sap sucking, even if they do not kill it

 

The effects of their feeding are clearly visible.

 

  • thrips, which particularly attack flowers.

 

 

Some of these pests are resistant to many insecticides, although there are biological controls available.

 

Above: Pesticide application can artificially select for resistant pests.

In this diagram, the first generation happens to have an insect with a heightened resistance to a pesticide (red).

After pesticide application, its descendants represent a larger proportion of the population, because sensitive pests (white) have been selectively killed.

After repeated applications, resistant pests may comprise the majority of the population.

 

 

Roots of cacti can be eaten by the larvae of sciarid flies and fungus gnats.

 

Sciara.hemerobioides.2.jpg

 

Slugs and snails also eat cacti.

 

Arion sp., from Vancouver, BC

Grapevinesnail 01.jpg

 

Fungi, bacteria and viruses attack cacti, the first two particularly when plants are over-watered.

Fusarium rot can gain entry through a wound and cause rotting accompanied by red-violet mold.

 

K7725-1-sm.jpg

 

Helminosporium rot” is caused by Bipolaris cactivora (syn. Helminosporium cactivorum).

Phytophthora species also cause similar rotting in cacti.

Fungicides may be of limited value in combating these diseases.

Several viruses have been found in cacti, including cactus virus X.

These appear to cause only limited visible symptoms, such as chlorotic (pale green) spots and mosaic effects (streaks and patches of paler color).

However, in an Agave species, cactus virus X has been shown to reduce growth, particularly when the roots are dry.

There are no treatments for virus diseases.

 

As aforementioned, Jardín de Cactus was the last intervention work César Manrique performed in Lanzarote.

The artist from Lanzarote could see beyond how run down the ancient rofera was.

Roferas were the quarries that raids are taken from to create a very particular home for cactaceae flowers from all over the world.

 

La Rofera (Teseguite) - 2020 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go ...

 

Surrounded by the largest cactus plantation of the island, dedicated to crops of cochineal insect, a product of great financial relevance in Lanzarote in the 19th Century.

Jardín de Cactus has around 4,500 specimens of 450 different species, of 13 different families of cactus from the five continents.

The green shade of the plants stands out against the blue sky and the dark volcano creating a harmonious explosion of colour that impresses visitors.

The only sounds that break the peace and quiet that prevails, are singing birds and buzzing insects, enjoying their very own oasis.

High volcanic ash monoliths, that maintain the memory of years gone by, challenging plants from America, Africa and Oceania.

At the top, on a small hill, windmills can be seen on the horizon, still standing, where Canarian cornmeal was ground dating back to the 19th century.

 

Cactus sobre negro volcánico en Lanzarote | El Viajero | EL PAÍS

 

While I have never been a big fan of cacti, I must admit that I was delightedly surprised by the Jardín’s display of such a wide variety of cacti, in all shapes, sizes and colours.

The impression we got from our guidebooks was that the Jardín was a large garden type set-up where you could walk around and basically get lost in a world of cacti.

Granted it is a large collection of cacti assembled and arranged in a quarry-type environment on different levels.

It is certainly impressive and the range of plants is extensive, but once you have paid the entrance fee and have passed through onto the uppermost level you have seen everything at a single glance.

 

Jardin de Cactus - Lanzarote - 2018-09-13 | Jardin de Cactus… | Flickr

 

And that is this attraction’s disadvantage.

You can go down to the lower levels and get up close to the individual plants but not too close.

As slow travellers it took us about an hour to see all there is to see, but most fellow tourists seemed sated with the Jardín within 30 minutes.

The reason why folks are quickly bored despite the bounty and beauty on display is that more information (such as that written above) about the cacti would be useful and entertaining.

 

Jardin De Cactus Lanzarote - Free photo on Pixabay

 

Why did Manrique choose cacti?

Did he visit Mexico?

Did he try peyote?

Could peyote have inspired his art and architecture?

Are these psychoactive cacti part of the Jardín’s collection?

And what of the stories and legends behind each type of cactus?

 

If Journalists Value Diversity Why Are Newsrooms So White? | WYPR

 

In 1984, it was decided that the Cactaceae Section of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study should set up a working party, now called the International Cactaceae Systematics Group (ICSG), to produce consensus classifications down to the level of genera.

Their system has been used as the basis of subsequent classifications.

Detailed treatments published in the 21st century have divided the family into around 125–130 genera and 1,400–1,500 species, which are then arranged into a number of tribes and subfamilies.

 

The New Cactus Lexicon, Volumes I and II: Descriptions and ...

 

The ICSG classification of the cactus family recognizes four subfamilies, the largest of which is divided into nine tribes:

  • Subfamily Pereskioideae

The only genus is Pereskia.

It has features considered closest to the ancestors of the Cactaceae.

Plants are trees or shrubs with leaves.

Their stems are smoothly round in cross section, rather than being ribbed or having tubercles.

It is a genus of 17 tropical species and varieties of cacti that do not look much like other types of cacti, having substantial leaves and thin stems.

They originate from the region between Brazil and Mexico.

Members of this genus are usually referred to as lemon vines, rose cacti or leaf cacti, though the latter also refers to the genus Epiphyllum.

The genus is named after Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580 – 1637), a 16th-century French botanist.

 

 

The genus is not of great economic importance.

 

 

  • Pereskia aculeata

The fruit are edible, widely cultivated.

Fruits containing numerous small seeds.

It somewhat resembles the gooseberry in appearance and is of excellent flavor.

This plant is a declared weed in South Africa.

 

 

 

  • Pereskia guamacho

The fruit are edible, collected from wild plants.

 

 

  • Pereskia bleo

The crushed leaves have been used to clarify drinking water.

 

  • Pereskia lychnidiflora

The spines are 12 cm long and have been used as needles in Guatemala.

 

  • Pereskia grandifolia

Cultivated for flowers.

The most common usage being as hedges.

They are easily transplanted and quickly grow into an impenetrable thicket, as well as flowering prolifically.

 

Pereskia grandifolia2.jpg

 

  • Pereskia aculeata

In horticulture being more tolerant of moisture than more succulent cacti, they can be used as rootstock for grafting of Zygo cactus to create miniature trees.

 

  • Subfamily Opuntioideae

It contains 15 genera divided into five tribes.

The subfamily encompasses roughly 220-250 species, and is geographically distributed throughout the New World from Canada, to Argentina.

They may have leaves when they are young, but these are lost later.

Their stems are usually divided into distinct “joints” or “pads” (cladodes).

Plants vary in size from the small cushions of Maihueniopsis to treelike species of Opuntia, rising to 10 m (33 ft) or more.

Opuntioideae are unique among cacti for lacking in the stem a thick cortex, an extensive system of cortical bundles, collapsible cortical cells, and medullary bundles.

Typically, the epidermis consists of a single layer of irregularly shaped cells, a cuticle at least 1-2 microns thick, and long, uniseriate trichomes in the areoles.

Opuntioideae have a hypodermis of at least one layer, very thick walls, and druses (aggregations of calcium oxalate crystals), and their cortical cells have enlarged nuclei.

The reason for this is unknown.

They also possess mucilage cells.

Notably, their lack of collapsible cortical cells, ribs, and tubercles mean that they cannot absorb water or transfer it intercellularly as easily as the other cacti, so this may place evolutionary constraints on the aridity of habitats and maximum adult size.

One adaptation around this problem is the evolution of flattened cladodes that allow opuntioids to swell up with water, increasing in volume without an increase in surface area risking water loss.

Opuntioids also lack fiber caps to their phloem bundles, which in other cacti protect against sucking insects and stiffen developing internodes.

 

 

  • Subfamily Maihuenioideae

They are found at high elevation habitats of Andean Argentina and Chile.

The only genus is Maihuenia, with two species, both of which form low-growing mats.
It has some features that are primitive within the cacti.
Plants have leaves, and crassulean acid metabolism is wholly absent.
  • Subfamily Cactoideae
Divided into nine tribes, this is the largest subfamily, including all the “typical” cacti.
Members are highly variable in habit, varying from tree-like to epiphytic.
Leaves are normally absent, although sometimes very reduced leaves are produced by young plants.
Stems are usually not divided into segments, and are ribbed or tuberculate.
Two of the tribes, Hylocereeae and Rhipsalideae, contain climbing or epiphytic forms with a rather different appearance.
Their stems are flattened and may be divided into segments.

Cactus flowers are pollinated by insects, birds and bats.

None are known to be wind-pollinated and self-pollination occurs in only a very few species.

For example the flowers of some species of Frailea do not open (cleistogamy).

The need to attract pollinators has led to the evolution of pollination syndromes, which are defined as groups of “floral traits, including rewards, associated with the attraction and utilization of a specific group of animals as pollinators.

 

Bees are the most common pollinators of cacti.

Bee-pollination is considered to have been the first to evolve.

 

Tetragonula carbonaria (14521993792).jpg

 

Day-flying butterflies and nocturnal moths are associated with different pollination syndromes.

Butterfly-pollinated flowers are usually brightly colored, opening during the day, whereas moth-pollinated flowers are often white or pale in color, opening only in the evening and at night.

As an example, Pachycereus schottii is pollinated by a particular species of moth, Upiga virescens, which also lays its eggs among the developing seeds its caterpillars later consume.

The flowers of this cactus are funnel-shaped, white to deep pink, up to 4 cm (1.6 in) long, and open at night.

 

Pachycereus schottii (5782222323).jpg

 

Hummingbirds are significant pollinators of cacti.

Species showing the typical hummingbird-pollination syndrome have flowers with colours towards the red end of the spectrum, anthers and stamens that protrude from the flower, and a shape that is not radially symmetrical, with a lower lip that bends downwards.

They produce large amounts of nectar with a relatively low sugar content.

Schlumbergera species, such as S. truncata, have flowers that correspond closely to this syndrome.

Other hummingbird-pollinated genera include Cleistocactus and Disocactus.

 

Trinidad and Tobago hummingbirds composite.jpg

 

Bat-pollination is relatively uncommon in flowering plants, but about a quarter of the genera of cacti are known to be pollinated by bats—an unusually high proportion, exceeded among eudicots by only two other families, both with very few genera.

Columnar cacti growing in semidesert areas are among those most likely to be bat-pollinated.

This may be because bats are able to travel considerable distances, so are effective pollinators of plants growing widely separated from one another.

The pollination syndrome associated with bats includes a tendency for flowers to open in the evening and at night, when bats are active.

 

A researcher holds a Mexican free-tailed bat

 

Other features include:

  • a relatively dull color, often white or green
  • a radially symmetrical shape, often tubular
  • a smell described as “musty
  • the production of a large amount of sugar-rich nectar.

Carnegiea gigantea is an example of a bat-pollinated cactus, as are many species of Pachycereus and Pilosocereus.

Above: Flowers of saguaro showing flattish white flowers adapted for bat pollination

 

The fruits produced by cacti after the flowers have been fertilized vary considerably.

Many are fleshy, although some are dry.

All contain a large number of seeds.

Fleshy, colorful and sweet-tasting fruits are associated with seed dispersal by birds.

The seeds pass through their digestive systems and are deposited in their droppings.

Fruit that falls to the ground may be eaten by other animals.

 

Green fruit of Schlumbergera cut in half, lying on a cutting board.

 

Giant tortoises are reported to distribute Opuntia seeds in the Galápagos Islands.

 

Adult Galápagos tortoise

 

Ants appear to disperse the seeds of a few genera, such as Blossfeldia.

 

Fire ants 01.jpg

 

Drier spiny fruits may cling to the fur of mammals or be moved around by the wind.

 

 

Cacti are such commonplace plants, of the type with which even the laziest of gardeners could theoretically cope.

 

Can You Drink Water from a Cactus? | Britannica

 

But perhaps it is this family of plants Manrique was referring to when he wrote:

I have always sought in nature its essential condition, its hidden sense, the meaning of my life.

The wonder and mystery which I have found on that long exploratory trail are as real, as apparent, as tangible reality.

My joie de vivre, my joy at the fact of constant creation, derives from the study, the contemplation and the love of Nature’s grandiose wisdom.

 

César Manrique's Death - Lanzarote Information

 

Lanzarote’s rough, dark, volcanic terrain is one which we learn to love with every crunch of our footsteps in the sand.

The wind, the sand, the houses and the people portray an island in constant motion.

An island with a past and with history, with a present and an identity, with a harmonious, respectful and sustainable future.

 

Following in the footsteps of Cesar Manrique in Lanzarote ...

 

The Cactus Garden is a magnificent example of an architectural intervention integrated into a landscape, where the pairing of art and nature is tangible and vibrant.

And an hour paused at this Jardín is in my opinion an hour not wasted, time and money well spent in the wonder and contemplation of the miracle of life that everyone assumes they know but few have discovered.

 

Werke von César Manrique in Spanien | spain.info auf deutsch

 

Perhaps the cacti can teach us other lessons as well:

There are five cacti on my windowsill
And a bonsai tree, living happily together
In any kind of weather they get along.
At first I was surprised
To see how they were faring
With all those shapes and sizes
You’d think there’d be some staring
But they didn’t seem to mind
That some were much to tall
No condensending looks were cast on those that were still small.
There are five cacti on my windowsill
And a bonsai tree, living happily together
In any kind of weather they get along.
You won’t get these prickly friends of mine
Comparing shades of green
Or having silly arguments
About differences between them
On the whole they’re quite accepting
When all is said and done
They’re a group of individuals reaching out towards the sun.
The Cactus Song by The Lads - YouTube
Individuals reaching out towards the sun…..
Such are the cacti of Guatiza.
Desert Cactus - DesertUSA
Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Canary Islands / Fernando Gómez Aguilera, César Manrique in His Own Words / Wolfgang Borsich, Lanzarote and César Manrique: Seven Buildings / Jorge Echenique and Andrés Murillo, Lanzarote / Eberhard Fohrer, Lanzarote / Raimundo Rodríguez, Lanzarote / Ignacio Romero, Lanzarote: A Hiking Guide / http://www.cactlanzarote.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Author’s Apartment 1: Learning

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Thursday 13 June 2019

In everyone’s life there are marker moments that separate who you were from who you are, as significant to the individual as BC and AD are to the Western calendar.

I have had my share of such moments in my own life.

Some are as obvious as scar tissue from accidents and operations.

Others are so subtle, so intimate, that they are as soft as a lover’s whisper in the night, and are no less important, nay, sometimes are far more important, than moments that clearly marked and marred you in the eyes of others.

Who we were, who we are and who we will become are often determined by what happens where we happen to be.

 

Image result for no u turn sign images

 

Certainly there are those who argue that we make our own destiny, that we create our own karma, but it is usually those who have known little hardship who wax poetically upon how they would have acted differently had they been in situations alien to their experience and understanding.

Their songs of self-praise usually play to the tune of “had I been there I would have….“.

“If I had been living in Germany during the Second World War I would have sheltered Jews.”

“If my country suffered a famine I would not remain.”

“If I lived in North Korea I would rise in revolt against the Kim dynasty.”

 

Flag of North Korea

 

Truth be told, we may have the potential to freely make such brave decisions, but in the harsh chill of grim reality whether we would actually possess the needed courage and have the opportunity to successfully act is highly debatable.

If the consequence of helping others might lead to your death and the death of your loved ones, would you really risk everything to shelter those whom your government deems enemies of the state?

Would you be able to abandon your family to famine to save yourself?

Would you really defy your entire country’s military might to speak truth to power and say that what is being done in the name of nationalism is wrong for the nation?

 

Flag of the United States

 

It is easy to condemn the Germans of the National Socialist nightmare, the starving masses in Africa and India, the North Koreans under the Kims, and suggest that they were weak to allow themselves to be dominated by circumstances.

The self-righteous will argue with such platitudes like “Evil can only triumph when the good stay silent.“, but martyrdom’s recklessness is not easily embraced by everyone.

 

Flag of Germany

 

I was born in an age and have lived in places where I have never personally experienced the ravages of war firsthand.

I have known hunger and thirst but have never been hungry or thirsty to the brink of my own demise.

I have been fortunate to live in places where democracy, though imperfectly applied at times, dominated society rather than being sacrificed for security.

As a Canadian born in the 60s, who has never been in a military conflict, it is not easy for me to fully appreciate the difficulties of others that I myself have never experienced.

 

Vertical triband (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the centre

 

I count former refugees among my circle of friends, but I cannot claim to fully comprehend what they have endured or what they continue to quietly endure.

I have known those who chose not to be part of a military machine, despite the accusation of treason and disloyalty to their nation this suggests, because they chose not to act in the name of a nation that does not respect a person’s rights to choose not to kill their fellow human beings.

 

 

I love my homeland of Canada but I have never been called to defend her, have never had to choose between patriotism and humanity.

Canada’s leaders I have known may not have been great statesmen, but neither have they been as reprehensible as the leadership of other nations.

Can it be easy to be a true believer in Turkey under a tyrant like Erdogan?

 

Flag of Turkey

 

Can it be easy to be a patriotic American with an amateur like Trump?

Can it be easy to call yourself a native of a nation whose government does things that disgust the conscience and stain the soil?

 

 

I grew up in Québec as an Anglophone Canadian and fortunately I have never been forced to choose between the province and the nation.

 

Flag of Quebec

 

I now live in a nation that certainly isn’t a paradise for everyone within its boundaries, but its nationalism has not tested my resolve nor has it required the surrender of my conscience.

 

Flag of Switzerland

 

Oh, what a lucky man I have been!

Others have not been so fortunate.

 

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Lucky Man.jpeg

 

I have visited places that have reminded me of my good fortune because of their contrast to that good fortune.

I have seen the ruins of the Berlin Wall and the grim reality of Cyprus’s Green Wall.

 

Berlinermauer.jpg

 

I have stood inside an underground tunnel between the two nations of South and North Korea, where two soldiers stand back-to-back 100 meters apart, and though they share the same language and the same culture, they are ordered to kill the other should the other speak.

 

Korea DMZ.svg

 

I have seen cemeteries of fallen soldiers and the ravaged ruins that wars past have left behind.

 

A page from a book. The first stanza of the poem is printed above an illustration of a white cross amidst a field of red poppies while two cannons fire in the background.

 

I have seen the settings of holocaust and have witnessed racism firsthand.

I have heard the condemnation of others for the crime of being different.

 

 

How dare they love who they choose!

How dare they believe differently than we!

How dare they look not as we do!

How dare they exist!

 

Some places are scar marks on the conscience, wounds on the world.

Some places whisper the intimate injury of injustice and barely breathe the breeze of silent bravery against insurmountable obstacles.

I have not lived in a nation torn against itself where bully bastards hide their cruelty behind an ideological -ism that is a thinly disguised mask for their sadism.

 

 

What follows is the tale of one man who did, a man who lived in Belgrade, Serbia’s eternal city, and gave the world an image of the place’s perpetuity, the mirage of immortality….

A man’s whose life has made me consider my own….

 

Above: Belgrade

 

Some folk tales have such universal appeal that we forget when and where we heard or read them, and they live on in our minds as memories of our personal experiences.

Such is, for example, the story of a young man who, wandering the Earth in pursuit of happiness, strayed onto a dangerous road, which led into an unknown direction.

To avoid losing his way, the young man marked the trees along the road with his hatchet, to help him find his way home.

That young man is the personification of general, eternal human destiny on one hand, there is a dangerous and uncertain road, and on the other, a great human need to not lose one’s way, to survive and to leave behind a legacy.

The signs we leave behind us might not avoid the fate of everything that is human: transience and oblivion.

Perhaps they will be passed by completely unnoticed?

Perhaps nobody will understand them?

And yet, they are necessary, just as it is natural and necessary for us humans to convey and reveal our thoughts to one another.

Even if those brief and unclear signs fail to spare us all wandering and temptation, they can alleviate them and, at least, be of help by convincing us that we are not alone in anything we experience, nor are we the first and only ones who have ever been in that position.

(Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside)

 

Image result for dawson creek signs

 

Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, 5 April 2018

The weather was worsening but my spirits were high.

I was on a mini-vacation, a separate holiday without my spouse, in a nation completely alien to me.

My good friend Nesha had graciously offered me the use of his apartment while he was away on business in Tara National Park, and so I was at liberty to come and go as I pleased without any obligations to anyone else but myself.

 

Flag of Serbia

Above: Flag of Serbia

 

The day had started well.

I had visited Saint Sava Cathedral, the Nikola Tesla Museum and had serendipitiously stumbled upon a second-hand music store that sold Serbian music that my guidebooks had recommended I discover.

 

Front view of Church of Saint Sava

Above: Saint Sava Cathedral

 

Museum of Nikola Tesla, Belgrade, Serbia-cropped.JPG

Above: Nikola Tesla Museum

 

(For details of these, please see Canada Slim and….

  • the Land of Long Life
  • the Holy Field of Sparrows
  • the Visionary
  • the Current War
  • the Man Who Invented the Future)

 

I was happy and so I would remain in the glorious week I spent in Belgrade and Nis.

I was learning so much!

(I still am.)

This journey I was making reminded me once again of just how ignorant I was (and am) of the world beyond my experience.

 

 

Before I began travelling the existence of life outside my senses remained naught more than rumours.

For example, I remember distinctly reading of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but it was far removed from my life until I moved to Germany and later visited Berlin before I began to understand why this had been a significant event, a big deal.

 

 

I partially blame my ignorance on the circumstances of my life in Canada.

Canadian news dominates Canadian media, which isn’t surprising as we are more interested in that which is closest to our experience.

English-language literature remains more accessible in Anglophone parts of Canada than other languages and so that is mostly what we know.

Too few Canadians speak more than their native tongues of either English or French.

Only 10% of Canadians are truly bilingual and not necessarily in the other official Canadian language.

How sad it is that so many North Americans know so little of the outside world unless there is a military conflict or diplomatic gesture in which they are involved.

Send a Canadian soldier or the Canadian Prime Minister to Serbia then a few Canadians might make a curious effort to find Serbia on a world map.

 

A map of Canada showing its 13 provinces and territories

 

Part of the problem and the reason why world peace and true unity eludes humanity is nationalism.

Why care about those who are not us?

If “us” is defined and limited by our national boundaries then how can we include “them” in our vision of fellow human beings?

Only the truly exceptional of that which is foreign grabs our momentary attention.

How can we understand one another if that which has shaped us is unknown by others and that which has shaped them is alien to us?

 

Flag of the United Nations

 

Can a Serbian truly understand a Canadian without knowing of Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky, Robert W. Service and Margaret Atwood, Just for Laughs and Stephan Leacock, the Stanley Cup and the CBC, Sergeant Renfrew and Constable Benton Fraser?

 

Statue of Fox running set on a plinth engraved with "Somewhere the hurting must stop..."

 

Can a Canadian truly understand a Serbian without knowing of Novak Djokovic and Nemanja Vidic, the Turija sausage fest and the Novi Sad Exit, the Drina Regatta and the Nisville Jazz Festival, Emir Kusturica and Stevan Stojanovic Mokranjac and Ivo Andric?

 

Frontal view of a bespectacled man

Above: Ivo Andric (1892 – 1975)

 

Possibly not.

 

I often think that it would be a good idea for the young to not only read what is / was written in their own tongue but as well to read Nobel Prize winning books translated from other languages.

It might even be a step towards world unity.

In my school years I was exposed to the writing of Nobel Prize winners Kipling, O’Neill, Buck, Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Bellow.

I had to travel to discover other Nobel laureates like Pamuk, Jelinek, Saramango, Neruda, Sartre, Camus, Marquez, Solzhenitsyn, Gidé, Mann and Andric by accident.

How much we miss when we stick to only our own!

How can we possibly have world peace when we are so ignorant of the world’s music, art and literature?

 

A golden medallion with an embossed image of Alfred Nobel facing left in profile. To the left of the man is the text "ALFR•" then "NOBEL", and on the right, the text (smaller) "NAT•" then "MDCCCXXXIII" above, followed by (smaller) "OB•" then "MDCCCXCVI" below.

 

The street that runs beside Belgrade’s New Palace, now the seat of the President of Serbia, is named Andrićev venac (Andrić’s Crescent) in his honour.

It includes a life-sized statue of the writer.

 

Image result for ivo andric statue belgrade

 

The flat in which Andrić spent his final years has been turned into a museum.

 

Related image

 

Several of Serbia’s other major cities, such as Novi Sad and Kragujevac, have streets named after Andrić.

Streets in a number of cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Višegrad, also carry his name.

 

 

Andrić remains the only writer from the former Yugoslavia to have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Given his use of the Ekavian dialect, and the fact that most of his novels and short stories were written in Belgrade, his works have become associated almost exclusively with Serbian literature.

 

(I asked my good friend Nesha whether Serbians can communicate with Bosnians and Croatians in a similar language, whether there was a Slavic tongue that unites the three.

He responded that it is all one Serbo-Croatian language with a difference in dialects that changes from region to region and divided by three different accents: Ekavica, Jekavic and Ijekavica

Even though Slovenians and Macedonians speak a little differently, they all understand and speak a Serbian-type speech.)

 

Serbo croatian language2005.png

 

The Slavonic studies professor Bojan Aleksov characterizes Andrić as one of Serbian literature’s two central pillars, the other being Njegoš.

The plasticity of his narrative,” Moravcevich writes, “the depth of his psychological insight, and the universality of his symbolism remain unsurpassed in all of Serbian literature.

 

 

Though it has been said that the Serbian novel did not begin with Ivo Andric – (that honour lies with Borisav Stankovic (1867 – 1927) who explored the contradictions of man’s spiritual and sensory life in his 1910 work Bad Blood, the first Serbian novel to receive praise in its foreign translations) – it was Andric who took Serbian literature’s oral traditions and epic poetry and developed and perfected its narrative form.

 

Image result for Borislav Stankovic the tainted blood

 

To this day, Andric remains probably the most famous writer from former Yugoslavia.

And, sadly, I had never heard of him prior to this day.

A visit to the Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric (to give its official title) this day helped correct this imbalance….

 

Image result for ivo andric museum belgrade images

 

By a decision of the Belgrade City Assembly, the property of Ivo Andric was heritage-listed and entrusted to the Belgrade City Museum immediately following Andric’s death on 13 March 1975.

It was an act meant to express the city’s deep respect for Andric as a writer and as a person.

In accordance with the practice common all over the world, Belgrade wished to preserve the original appearance of the writer’s apartment, surrounded by the Belgrade Old and New Courts and Pionirski Park, in its picturesque environment, to honour its famous citizen.

The establishment of this Memorial Museum also throws light on a very remarkable period in history encompassing the two world wars, as well as the post-war years, on which Andric left a strong personal and creative impact.

The holdings of Ivo Andric’s legacy chiefly consist of items found and inventoried at his apartment after his death – the underlying idea being to reflect the spirit and atmosphere of privacy and nobility surrounding him.

Andric’s personal library contains 3,373 items, along with archival materials, manuscripts, works of fine and applied arts, diplomas and decorations, 1,070 personal belongings and 803 photographs.

The apartment covers an area of 144 square metres (somewhat larger than my own apartment) and is divided into three units:

  • the authentic interior, encompassing an entrance hall, a drawing room and Andric’s study
  • the exhibition rooms, created by the adaptation of two bedrooms
  • the curators’ and guides offices and the museum storerooms, occupying the former kitchen, the maid’s room, the bathroom and the lobby

It is both an unusual and a subtle combination of ambiguously private and unabasedly public, presenting an overview of Andric’s private life while depicting his vivid diplomatic, national, cultural and educational activities.

Ivo Andric was an unusual man who lived in unusual times, a life captured by a small apartment museum that like Andric himself is deceptively normal in appearance….

 

Image result for ivo andric museum belgrade images

 

The original appearance and the function of the entrance hall have been preserved to a great extent.

The showcase with publications and souvenirs of the Belgrade City Museum is the only sign indicating that a visitor, though in residential premises, is actually in a Museum.

Already at the entrance to the Museum, an open bookshelf populated with thick volumes of Serbo-Croatian and foreign language dictionaries and encyclopedias and literary works in French, German and English, symbolizes Andric’s communication with European and world literature, history and philosophy as well as his own creative endeavours.

This is where the story of the writer begins to unfold….

 

Image result for ivo andric museum belgrade images

 

Ivan Andrić was born in the village of Dolac, near Travnik, on 10 October 1892, while his mother, Katarina (née Pejić), was in the town visiting relatives.

 

Above: The house in which Andric was born, now a museum

 

(Travnik has a strong culture, mostly dating back to its time as the center of local government in the Ottoman Empire.

Travnik has a popular old town district however, which dates back to the period of Bosnian independence during the first half of the 15th century.

Numerous mosques and churches exist in the region, as do tombs of important historical figures and excellent examples of Ottoman architecture.

The city museum, built in 1950, is one of the more impressive cultural institutions in the region.

Travnik became famous by important persons who were born or lived in the city.

The most important of which are Ivo Andrić, Miroslav Ćiro Blažević (football coach of the Croatian national team, won third place 1998 in France), Josip Pejaković (actor), Seid Memić (pop singer) and Davor Džalto (artist and art historian, the youngest PhD in Germany and in the South-East European region).

 

Skyline of Travnik

Above: Images of Travnik

 

One of the main works of Ivo Andrić is the Bosnian Chronicle, depicting life in Travnik during the Napoleonic Wars and written during World War II.

In this work Travnik and its people – with their variety of ethnic and religious communities – are described with a mixture of affection and exasperation.

 

Ivo Andriac, Ivo Andric - Bosnian Chronicle

 

The Bosnian Tornjak, one of Bosnia’s two major dog breeds and national symbol, originated in the area, found around Mount Vlašić.)

 

Bosniantornjak.jpg

 

Andrić’s parents were both Catholic Croats.

He was his parents’ only child.

(I too was raised as an only child.)

 

His father, Antun, was a struggling silversmith who resorted to working as a school janitor in Sarajevo, where he lived with his wife and infant son.

(The Museum disagrees with Wikipedia, describing Antun as a court attendant.)

 

At the age of 32, Antun died of tuberculosis, like most of his siblings.

Andrić was only two years old at the time.

(My mother died, of cancer, when I was three.)

 

Widowed and penniless, Andrić’s mother took him to Višegrad and placed him in the care of her sister-in-law Ana and brother-in-law Ivan Matković, a police officer at the border military police station.

The couple were financially stable but childless, so they agreed to look after the infant and brought him up as their own in their house on the bank of the Drina River.

Meanwhile, Andrić’s mother returned to Sarajevo seeking employment.

Andrić was raised in a country that had changed little since the Ottoman period despite being mandated to Austria-Hungary at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

Eastern and Western culture intermingled in Bosnia to a far greater extent than anywhere else in the Balkan peninsula.

Having lived there from an early age, Andrić came to cherish Višegrad, calling it “my real home“.

Though it was a small provincial town (or kasaba), Višegrad proved to be an enduring source of inspiration.

It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional town, the predominant groups being Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks).

 

Višegrad

Above: Images of Visegrad

 

(Like Andric, I was born elsewhere than the place I think of as home, though to Andric’s credit he lovingly wrote about his birthplace in The Travnik Chronicle.

I could imagine writing about St. Philippe, my childhood hometown, but I feel no intimate connection to St. Eustache, my birthplace, whatsoever, despite the latter having a larger claim to fame than the “blink-or-you’ll-miss-it” village of my youth.)

 

Above: St. Eustache City Hall

 

(My imagination plays with the notion of St. Philippe as “St. Jerusalem” and St. Eustache described during the Rebellion of 1837.)

 

Saint-Eustache-Patriotes.jpg

Above: The Battle of St. Eustache, 14 December 1837

 

From an early age, Andrić closely observed the customs of the local people.

These customs, and the particularities of life in eastern Bosnia, would later be detailed in his works.

Andrić made his first friends in Višegrad, playing with them along the Drina River and the town’s famous Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge.

 

Visegrad bridge by Klackalica.jpg

 

(The area was part of the medieval Serbian state of the Nemanjić dynasty.

It was part of the Grand Principality of Serbia under Stefan Nemanja (r. 1166–96).

In the Middle Ages, Dobrun was a place within the border area with Bosnia, on the road towards Višegrad.

After the death of Emperor Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55), the region came under the rule of magnate Vojislav Vojinović, and then his nephew, župan (count) Nikola Altomanović.

The Dobrun Monastery was founded by župan Pribil and his family, some time before the 1370s.

 

Above: Dobrun Monastery

 

The area then came under the rule of the Kingdom of Bosnia, part of the estate of the Pavlović noble family.

The settlement of Višegrad is mentioned in 1407, but is starting to be more often mentioned after 1427.

In the period of 1433–37, a relatively short period, caravans crossed the settlement many times.

Many people from Višegrad worked for the Republic of Ragusa.

Srebrenica and Višegrad and its surroundings were again in Serbian hands in 1448 after Despot Đurađ Branković defeated Bosnian forces.

 

Đurađ Branković, Esphigmenou charter (1429).jpg

Above: Durad Brankovic (1377 – 1456)

 

According to Turkish sources, in 1454, Višegrad was conquered by the Ottoman Empire led by Osman Pasha.

It remained under the Ottoman rule until the Berlin Congress (1878), when Austria-Hungary took control of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

 

The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge was built by the Ottoman architect and engineer Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha.

Construction of the bridge took place between 1571 and 1577.

It still stands, and it is now a tourist attraction, after being inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

 

UNESCO logo English.svg

 

The Bosnian Eastern Railway from Sarajevo to Uvac and Vardište was built through Višegrad during the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Construction of the line started in 1903.

It was completed in 1906, using the 760 mm (2 ft 5 1516 in) track gauge.

With the cost of 75 million gold crowns, which approximately translates to 450 thousand gold crowns per kilometer, it was one of the most expensive railways in the world built by that time.

This part of the line was eventually extended to Belgrade in 1928.

Višegrad is today part of the narrow-gauge heritage railway Šargan Eight.

 

The area was a site of Partisan–German battles during World War II.

Višegrad is one of several towns along the River Drina in close proximity to the Serbian border.

The town was strategically important during the Bosnian War conflict.

A nearby hydroelectric dam provided electricity and also controlled the level of the River Drina, preventing flooding downstream areas.

The town is situated on the main road connecting Belgrade and Užice in Serbia with Goražde and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a vital link for the Užice Corps of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) with the Uzamnica camp as well as other strategic locations implicated in the conflict.

 

 

On 6 April 1992, JNA artillery bombarded the town, in particular Bosniak-inhabited neighbourhoods and nearby villages.

Murat Šabanović and a group of Bosniak men took several local Serbs hostage and seized control of the hydroelectric dam, threatening to blow it up.

Water was released from the dam causing flooding to some houses and streets.

Eventually on 12 April, JNA commandos seized the dam.

 

Бањска стена - Тешке боје.jpg

 

The next day the JNA’s Užice Corps took control of Višegrad, positioning tanks and heavy artillery around the town.

The population that had fled the town during the crisis returned and the climate in the town remained relatively calm and stable during the later part of April and the first two weeks of May.

On 19 May 1992 the Užice Corps officially withdrew from the town and local Serb leaders established control over Višegrad and all municipal government offices.

 

Soon after, local Serbs, police and paramilitaries began one of the most notorious campaigns of ethnic cleansing in the conflict.

There was widespread looting and destruction of houses, and terrorizing of Bosniak civilians, with instances of rape, with a large number of Bosniaks killed in the town, with many bodies were dumped in the River Drina.

Men were detained at the barracks at Uzamnica, the Vilina Vlas Hotel and other sites in the area.

Vilina Vlas also served as a “brothel“, in which Bosniak women and girls (some not yet 14 years old), were brought to by police officers and paramilitary members (White Eagles and Arkan’s Tigers).

 

Visegradska banja vilina vlas by Klackalica.jpg

Above: Vilina Vlas Hotel today

 

Bosniaks detained at Uzamnica were subjected to inhumane conditions, including regular beatings, torture and strenuous forced labour.

Both of the town’s mosques were razed.

According to victims’ reports some 3,000 Bosniaks were murdered in Višegrad and its surroundings, including some 600 women and 119 children.

According to the Research and Documentation Center, at least 1,661 Bosniaks were killed/missing in Višegrad.

 

With the Dayton Agreement, which put an end to the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, the latter which Višegrad became part of.

 

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Above: Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Before the war, 63% of the town residents were Bosniak.

In 2009, only a handful of survivors had returned to what is now a predominantly Serb town.

On 5 August 2001, survivors of the massacre returned to Višegrad for the burial of 180 bodies exhumed from mass graves.

The exhumation lasted for two years and the bodies were found in 19 different mass graves.

The charges of mass rape were unapproved as the prosecutors failed to request them in time.

Cousins Milan Lukić and Sredoje Lukić were convicted on 20 July 2009, to life in prison and 30 years, respectively, for a 1992 killing spree of Muslims.

 

LUKIC Milan copy.jpg

Above: Milan Lukic

 

The Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge was popularized by Andric in his novel The Bridge on the Drina.

A tourist site called Andricgrad (Andric Town) dedicated to Andric, is located near the Bridge.

Construction of Andrićgrad, also known as Kamengrad (Каменград, “Stonetown“) started on 28 June 2011, and was officially opened on 28 June 2014, on Vidovdan.)

 

Above: Main Street, Andricgrad

 

Throughout his life Andric was tied to Visegrad by pleasant reminiscences and bright memories of childhood.

 

The Bridge on the Drina.jpg

Above: First edition of The Bridge on the Drina (Serbian)

 

At the age of ten, he received a three-year scholarship from a Croat cultural group called Napredak (Progress) to study in Sarajevo.

In the autumn of 1902, he was registered at the Great Sarajevo Gymnasium (Serbo-Croatian: Velika Sarajevska gimnazija), the oldest secondary school in Bosnia.

While in Sarajevo, Andrić lived with his mother, who worked in a rug factory as a weaver.

 

 

(Today Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a population of 275,524 in its administrative limits.

The Sarajevo metropolitan area,  is home to 555,210 inhabitants.

Nestled within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia, it is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of the Balkans.

Sarajevo is the political, financial, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a prominent center of culture in the Balkans, with its region-wide influence in entertainment, media, fashion, and the arts.

Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural diversity, Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of Europeor “Jerusalem of the Balkans“.

It is one of only a few major European cities which have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood.

A regional center in education, the city is home to the Balkans first institution of tertiary education in the form of an Islamic polytechnic called the Saraybosna Osmanlı Medrese, today part of the University of Sarajevo.

Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century.

Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history.

In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco….)

 

 

At the time, the city was overflowing with civil servants from all parts of Austria-Hungary, and thus many languages could be heard in its restaurants, cafés and on its streets.

Culturally, the city boasted a strong Germanic element, and the curriculum in educational institutions was designed to reflect this.

From a total of 83 teachers that worked at Andrić’s school over a twenty-year period, only three were natives of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The teaching program,” biographer Celia Hawkesworth notes, “was devoted to producing dedicated supporters of the Habsburg Monarchy.”

Andrić disapproved.

All that came at secondary school and university,” he wrote, “was rough, crude, automatic, without concern, faith, humanity, warmth or love.

 

Andrić experienced difficulty in his studies, finding mathematics particularly challenging, and had to repeat the sixth grade.

For a time, he lost his scholarship due to poor grades.

Hawkesworth attributes Andrić’s initial lack of academic success at least partly to his alienation from most of his teachers.

Nonetheless, he excelled in languages, particularly Latin, Greek and German.

Although he initially showed substantial interest in natural sciences, he later began focusing on literature, likely under the influence of his two Croat instructors, writer and politician Đuro Šurmin and poet Tugomir Alaupović.

Of all his teachers in Sarajevo, Andrić liked Alaupović best and the two became lifelong friends.

 

Image result for tugomir alaupović

Above: Tugomir Alaupovic (1870 – 1958)

 

Andrić felt he was destined to become a writer.

He began writing in secondary school, but received little encouragement from his mother.

He recalled that when he showed her one of his first works, she replied:

“Did you write this? What did you do that for?”

Andrić published his first poem “U sumrak” (At dusk)  in 1911 in a journal called Bosanska vila (Bosnian Fairy), which promoted Serbo-Croat unity.

At the time, he was still a secondary school student.

His poems, essays, reviews, and translations appeared in journals such as Vihor (Whirlwind), Savremenik (The Contemporary), Hrvatski pokret (The Croatian Movement), and Književne novine (Literary News).

One of Andrić’s favorite literary forms was lyrical reflective prose, and many of his essays and shorter pieces are prose poems.

The historian Wayne S. Vucinich describes Andrić’s poetry from this period as “subjective and mostly melancholic“.

Andrić’s translations of August Strindberg’s novel Black Flag, Walt Whitman, and a number of Slovene authors also appeared around this time.

 

August Strindberg

Above: Swedish writer August Strindberg (1849 – 1912)

 

In 1908, Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the chagrin of South Slav nationalists like Andrić.

In late 1911, Andrić was elected the first president of the Serbo-Croat Progressive Movement (Serbo-Croatian: Srpsko-Hrvatska Napredna Organizacija; SHNO), a Sarajevo-based secret society that promoted unity and friendship between Serb and Croat youth and opposed the Austro-Hungarian occupation.

Its members were vehemently criticized by both Serb and Croat nationalists, who dismissed them as “traitors to their nations“.

Unfazed, Andrić continued agitating against the Austro-Hungarians.

On 28 February 1912, he spoke before a crowd of 100 student protesters at Sarajevo’s railway station, urging them to continue their demonstrations.

The Austro-Hungarian police later began harassing and prosecuting SHNO members.

Ten were expelled from their schools or penalized in some other way, though Andrić himself escaped punishment.

Andrić also joined the South Slav student movement known as Young Bosnia, becoming one of its most prominent members.

 

 

In 1912, Andrić registered at the University of Zagreb, having received a scholarship from an educational foundation in Sarajevo.

He enrolled in the department of mathematics and natural sciences because these were the only fields for which scholarships were offered, but was able to take some courses in Croatian literature.

 

University of Zagreb logo.svg

 

(Today Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia.

It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River, at the southern slopes of Mount Medvednica.

 

 

The climate of Zagreb is classified as an oceanic climate, but with significant continental influences and very closely bordering on a humid Continental climate as well as a humid subtropical climate.

Zagreb has four separate seasons.

Summers are warm, at the end of May the temperatures start rising and it is often pleasant with occasional thunderstorms.

Heatwaves can occur but are short-lived.

Temperatures rise above 30 °C (86 °F) on an average 14.6 days each summer.

Rainfall is abundant in the summertime and it continues to be in autumn as well.

Zagreb is Europe’s 9th wettest capital, behind Luxembourg and ahead of Brussels, Belgium.

Autumn in its early stages is mild with an increase of rainy days and precipitation as well as a steady temperature fall towards its end.

Morning fog is common from mid-October to January with northern city districts at the foothills of the Medvednica mountain as well as those along the Sava river being more prone to all-day fog accumulation.

Winters are cold with a precipitation decrease pattern.

Even though there is no discernible dry season, February is the driest month with 39 mm of precipitation.

On average there are 29 days with snowfall with first snow falling in early November.

Springs are generally mild and pleasant with frequent weather changes and are windier than other seasons.

Sometimes cold spells can occur, mostly in its early stages.

The average daily mean temperature in the winter is around 1 °C (34 °F) (from December to February) and the average temperature in the summer is 22.0 °C (71.6 °F).

 

 

Zagreb is a city with a rich history dating from the Roman times to the present day.

The oldest settlement located in the vicinity of the city was the Roman Andautonia, in today’s Ščitarjevo.

The name “Zagreb” is recorded in 1134, in reference to the foundation of the settlement at Kaptol in 1094.

Zagreb became a free royal town in 1242.

In 1851 Zagreb had its first mayor, Janko Kamauf.

After the 1880 Zagreb earthquake, up to the 1914 outbreak of World War I, development flourished and the town received the characteristic layout which it has today.

 

 

Zagreb still occasionally experiences earthquakes, due to the proximity of Žumberak-Medvednica fault zone.

It’s classified as an area of high seismic activity.

The area around Medvednica was the epicentre of the 1880 Zagreb earthquake (magnitude 6.3), and the area is known for occasional landslide threatening houses in the area.

The proximity of strong seismic sources presents a real danger of strong earthquakes.

Croatian Chief of Office of Emergency Management Pavle Kalinić stated Zagreb experiences around 400 earthquakes a year, most of them being imperceptible.

However, in case of a strong earthquake, it’s expected that 3,000 people would die and up to 15,000 would be wounded.

 

Zagreb Cathedral interior 1880.jpg

Above: Damage done to Zagreb Cathedral, 9 November 1880

 

The first horse-drawn tram was used in 1891.

The construction of the railway lines enabled the old suburbs to merge gradually into Donji Grad, characterised by a regular block pattern that prevails in Central European cities.

This bustling core hosts many imposing buildings, monuments, and parks as well as a multitude of museums, theatres and cinemas.

An electric power plant was built in 1907.

 

Since 1 January 1877, the Grič cannon is fired daily from the Lotrščak Tower on Grič to mark midday.

 

 

The first half of the 20th century saw a considerable expansion of Zagreb.

Before World War I, the city expanded and neighbourhoods like Stara Peščenica in the east and Črnomerec in the west were created.

The transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific, and research institutions and industrial tradition underlie its leading economic position in Croatia.

Zagreb is the seat of the central government, administrative bodies, and almost all government ministries.

Almost all of the largest Croatian companies, media, and scientific institutions have their headquarters in the city.

Zagreb is the most important transport hub in Croatia where Central Europe, the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe meet, making the Zagreb area the centre of the road, rail and air networks of Croatia.

It is a city known for its diverse economy, high quality of living, museums, sporting and entertainment events.

Its main branches of economy are high-tech industries and the service sector.

 

 

Zagreb is an important tourist centre, not only in terms of passengers travelling from the rest of Europe to the Adriatic Sea, but also as a travel destination itself.

It attracts close to a million visitors annually, mainly from Austria, Germany and Italy, and in recent years many tourists from the Far East (South Korea, Japan, China and India).

It has become an important tourist destination, not only in Croatia, but considering the whole region of southeastern Europe.

There are many interesting sights and happenings for tourists to attend in Zagreb, for example, the two statues of Saint George, one at the Republic of Croatia Square, the other at Kamenita vrata, where the image of Virgin Mary is said to be only thing that hasn’t burned in the 17th-century fire.

Also, there is an art installation starting in Bogovićeva street, called Nine Views.

Most people don’t know what the statue “Prizemljeno Sunce” (The Grounded Sun) is for, and just scrawl graffiti or signatures on it, but it’s actually the Sun scaled down, with many planets situated all over Zagreb in scale with the Sun.

There are also many festivals and events throughout the year, making Zagreb a year-round tourist destination.

The historical part of the city to the north of Ban Jelačić Square is composed of the Gornji Grad and Kaptol, a medieval urban complex of churches, palaces, museums, galleries and government buildings that are popular with tourists on sightseeing tours.

The historic district can be reached on foot, starting from Jelačić Square, the centre of Zagreb, or by a funicular on nearby Tomićeva Street.

Each Saturday, (April – September), on St. Mark’s Square in the Upper town, tourists can meet members of the Order of The Silver Dragon (Red Srebrnog Zmaja), who reenact famous historical conflicts between Gradec and Kaptol.

It’s a great opportunity for all visitors to take photographs of authentic and fully functional historical replicas of medieval armour.

 

 

Numerous shops, boutiques, store houses and shopping centres offer a variety of quality clothing.

There are about fourteen big shopping centres in Zagreb.

Zagreb’s offerings include crystal, china and ceramics, wicker or straw baskets, and top-quality Croatian wines and gastronomic products.

Notable Zagreb souvenirs are the tie or cravat, an accessory named after Croats who wore characteristic scarves around their necks in the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century and the ball-point pen, a tool developed from the inventions by Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, an inventor and a citizen of Zagreb.

Many Zagreb restaurants offer various specialties of national and international cuisine.

Domestic products which deserve to be tasted include turkey, duck or goose with mlinci (a kind of pasta), štrukli (cottage cheese strudel), sir i vrhnje (cottage cheese with cream), kremšnite (custard slices in flaky pastry) and orehnjača (traditional walnut roll). )

 

 

Andrić was well received by South Slav nationalists in Zagreb and regularly participated in on-campus demonstrations.

This led to his being reprimanded by the university.

In 1913, after completing two semesters in Zagreb, Andrić transferred to the University of Vienna, where he resumed his studies.

 

Uni-Vienna-seal.png

 

(Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria.

Vienna is Austria’s principal city, with a population of about 1.9 million (2.6 million within the metropolitan area, nearly one third of the country’s population), and its cultural, economic and political centre.

It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants.

Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.

Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC.

The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

These regions work together in a European Centrope border region.

Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants.

In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be “The City of Dreams” because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst – Sigmund Freud.

The city’s roots lie in early Celtic and Roman settlements that transformed into a Medieval and Baroque city, and then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It is well known for having played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century.

The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, and the late-19th-century Ringstraße lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks.

Vienna is known for its high quality of life.

In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver and San Francisco) for the world’s most liveable cities.

Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second, behind Melbourne.

In 2018, it replaced Melbourne as the number one spot.

For ten consecutive years (2009–2019), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual “Quality of Living” survey of hundreds of cities around the world.

Monocle’s 2015 “Quality of Life Survey” ranked Vienna second on a list of the top 25 cities in the world “to make a base within.”

The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013.

The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and sixth globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2014 Innovation Cities Index, which analyzed 162 indicators in covering three areas: culture, infrastructure, and markets.

Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.

Between 2005 and 2010, Vienna was the world’s number-one destination for international congresses and conventions.

It attracts over 6.8 million tourists a year.)

 

From top, left to right: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna City Hall, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, and Austrian Parliament Building

Above: Images of Vienna (Wien)

 

While in Vienna, Andric joined South Slav students in promoting the cause of Yugoslav unity and worked closely with two Yugoslav student societies, the Serbian cultural society Zora (Dawn) and the Croatian student club Zvonimir, which shared his views on “integral Yugoslavism” (the eventual assimilation of all South Slav cultures into one).

Andric became acquainted with Soren Kierkegaard’s book Either / Or, which would have a lasting influence on him.

 

A head-and-shoulders portrait sketch of a young man in his twenties that emphasizes his face, full hair, open and forward-looking eyes and a hint of a smile. He wears a formal necktie and lapel.

Above: Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

 

Despite finding like-minded students in Vienna, the city’s climate took a toll on Andrić’s health.

He contracted tuberculosis and became seriously ill, then asked to leave Vienna on medical grounds and continue his studies elsewhere, though Hawkesworth believes he may actually have been taking part in a protest of South Slav students that were boycotting German-speaking universities and transferring to Slavic ones.

 

For a time, Andrić had considered transferring to a school in Russia but ultimately decided to complete his fourth semester at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

 

POL Jagiellonian University logo.svg

Above: Logo of Jagiellonian University

 

(Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland.

Situated on the Vistula River, the city dates back to the 7th century.

Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596 and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life.

Cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second most important city.

It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Central Europe in 965.

With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre.

The city has a population of about 770,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square.

 

 

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, the newly defined Distrikt Krakau (Kraków District) became the capital of Germany’s General Government.

The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.

 

Krakow Ghetto Gate 73170.jpg

 

In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II—the first Slavic pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

 

John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver, Colorado

Above: Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

 

Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Kraków’s Historic Centre.

Kraków is classified as a global city with the ranking of high sufficiency by GaWC.

Its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula, the St. Mary’s Basilica, Saints Peter and Paul Church and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny.

Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Poland’s most reputable institution of higher learning.

In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture.

In 2013 Kraków was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature.

The city hosted the World Youth Day in July 2016.)

 

 

Throughout his life Andric would feel that he owed much to the Polish excursion.

Andric met and mingled with painters Jovan Bijelic, Roman Petrovic and Peter Tijesic.

He transferred in early 1914 and continued to publish translations, poems and reviews.

Six poems written by Andric were included in the anthology Hrvatska Mlada Linka (Young Christian Lyricists).

In the words of literary critics:

As unhappy as any artist.  Ambitious.  Sensitive.  Briefly speaking, he has a future.

 

Flag of Poland

Above: Flag of Poland

 

(This perspective has always made me wonder….

Must a man suffer before he can call himself an artist?)

 

A portrait of Vincent van Gogh from the right; he is wearing a winter hat, his ear is bandaged and he has no beard.

 

Certainly, Andric lost his father and was separated from his mother in his childhood and the domination of his homeland by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire clearly bothered him, nonetheless Andric had had the distinct privilege of living and studying in four of the most beautiful and cultural cities that Eastern Europe offers.

Certainly, Andric would be plagued with ill health often during the course of his lifetime, but it would not be until the outbreak of war in 1914 that his, and Europe’s, suffering would truly begin….

(To be continued….)

Image result for ivo andric museum belgrade images

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Eastern Europe / Belgrade City Museum, Memorial Museum of Ivo Andric Guide / Komshe Travel Guides, Serbia in Your Hands / Top Travel Guides, Belgrade / Bradt Guides, Serbia / Aleksandar Diklic, Belgrade: The Eternal City / Ivo Andric, The Bridge on the Drina / Ivo Andric, Signs by the Roadside

Canada Slim and the Calculated Cathedral

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 29 November 2017

It is a season of grey days and black, almost eternal, nights.

Vertical triband (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the centre

As much as I comprehend why Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October rather than November because the growing seasons are shorter up there, I occasionally wonder if the Americans might not be onto something by celebrating life at a time of darkening skies and colder temperatures.

Flag of the United States

Thanksgiving, celebrated every third Thursday of November in the US, is meant to convey thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon self, friends and family through the bountiful harvest received and shown by a fully laden dining room table.

It is a New World celebration meant to commemorate the Pilgrims´ first year in America when they gave thanks to God that through the help of native tribes they learned how to produce food to survive and thrive as a transplanted people.

Above: The First Thanksgiving, 1621, by Jean Farris (1899)

Above the Equator, in the Northern Hemisphere, there are many countries who have similar seasonal changes and similar harvest times, and to be fair Americans did not invent the concept of praising divinity for blessings received as this ritual has been celebrated in one form or another for millennia.

As the weather turns colder than even Donald Trump´s soul, I find myself thankful that I am still alive, that I have a roof over my head and regular food in my belly, that I am of (relatively) sound mind and body and that I have people in my life whom I love and by whom I am loved.

I am truly a fortunate man.

That having been said I am not unaware that there are those who don´t feel so fortunate.

I have known people, good people, for whom reality seems to them to be cruel and unkind, for whom life seems to be a never-changing cycle of sadness, of eternally grey days and black ink evil evenings with slim hope for the dawn.

I cannot begin to imagine what life must be like for those who feel illness within their minds, who feel an emptiness within their souls.

I cannot but feel sympathy for those who feel death is a release, a relief, from the hell of their perceived existence.

I know just enough, and yet far too little, that changing one´s perspective is not simply emotional determination but could also be both a product of one´s history and chemical make-up.

It is easy to condemn humanity´s monsters, like the recently deceased Charles Manson, for they made life decisions that brought extreme pain and suffering to others.

Manson's

Above: Charles Manson (1934 – 2017)

It is impossible and frightening to imagine how on God´s green Earth that the murder and torture of others can be justifiable in the minds of these rare abominations of the mentally unwell.

I say rare abominations, for I believe that the vast majority of those hurting members of the psychologically unhappy are more victims to their condition than they are bent on taking others down with them in their descent into darkness.

We, the seemingly rational and arrogantly confident in our inappropriately felt superiority, blame the illness on the ill victims, not sensing nor caring that they too wish to feel welcome by a humanity that does not understand them and thus struggles, often in vain, to assist them, or, failing that, remove them from the general populace.

I watch in silent frustration when those I love hurt themselves and others as they blindly grope their way through illogical reality simply trying to survive.

Life has somehow injured them and they have selfishly sought solace in safer corners of their minds where no one else can go.

I have seen wonderful, compassionate friends and family victimised by their own private pain and there seems nothing I can do or say to help, because the everpresent fear of swimming into psychologically insecure deep waters instinctively instills a fear that we too might be swept along in and dragged down by the wake of their thrashing.

We judge them by standards we understand, rather than by their standards we can´t understand.

I want to hold each one of them and tell them in a way they might truly believe, that their lives matter, that they are worthy of love and dignity, but sometimes I am scared by my inability to do so.

I want to tell them that though there truly is a vast amount of pain in this vale of tears that we share, there is also the potential for great joy.

Perhaps here is the value of Thanksgiving, of giving thanks to something or someone beyond ourselves, of prayer to whatever or whomever may be either within or from outside ourselves.

In the brutal honesty of a sleepless night, I reject my rational analysis of the folly of believing in a God whose only proof of existence is that His non-existence has yet to be proven and hope beyond reason that God does exist whether or not His existence is a creation or a manifestation of my own making.

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Above: Michelangelo´s The Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

And this I think is the value of faith, of religion – finding hope and comfort in that which might exist.

To somehow believe that pain can be endured, that there will be a dawn beyond the darkness, even if it is unclear how this can happen.

Mankind has built mighty edifices in an attempt to enclose the divine and bend it to our will for our benefit….

Sheer folly.

Yet the symbolic gathering together of humanity into congregations, bound by faith and traditions, giving meaning to the passages of life in its forms of birth, maturity, matrimony and death, gives purpose to the construction of shrines of worship.

Though cathedrals and churches, monasteries and mosques, temples and tabernacles, by the very act of enclosure create a division of people between those within and those outside and have caused those within to feel both a superiority and a zeal to extend the choir invisible beyond the ecclesiastical doors with some even willing to break the taboos of religion in the name of religion, nonetheless these places of illogical and irrational faith sustain and console us.

I am reminded this morning of the places of worship I visited while I was in London last month and though the seeds of the religious fell mostly on mentally stubborn and stone hard ground, my visit to these places still left their impression upon me.

A visitor walking around London cannot help but be impressed by the number of churches in this city more renowned for trade and commerce, but, as we know from the remains of the Temple of Mithras at Walbrook discovered in 1954, religious buildings have always been an integral part of the fabric of London.

Some of London´s most breathtaking modern structures are religious buildings dedicated to many faiths, whose communities form a strong part of the social fabric of modern London.

As hard as it is to imagine London without its many churches, it is even harder still to imagine London without its many faiths.

Our discovery of the faithful of London began on our first night in town….

London, England, 23 October 2017

My wife, aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, wanted to take pictures of the Thames River before we headed back to our B & B in the Paddington district.

It had already been quite the full day: pre-dawn departure from our beds and dash down the highway to Zürich, the bureaucratic exit from one designated country and the bureaucratic entry into another, the search and finding of our week´s accommodations, the navigating of the nefarious nightmare beneath called the Tube, and a mad race through one of the world´s most famous museums – the Tate Modern.

A large oblong brick building with square chimney stack in centre of front face. It stands on the far side of the River Thames, with a curving white foot bridge on the left.

Above: The Tate Modern, London

But my wife wanted to see more while she could with what remained of her day´s energies.

I had no objections.

We, like many before, crossed the London Millennium Footbridge, or as it is affectionately known by Londoners “the wobbly bridge”, the steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames, linking Bankside on the south bank with the City of London to the north.

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Above: Millennium Bridge, as seen from St. Paul´s Cathedral

The Bridge, 1,066 feet/325 metres long, 13 feet/4 metres wide, officially opened on 1 June 2000 and quickly was closed again shortly thereafter as the 90,000 people crossing it on its opening day felt that the Bridge was wobbling and lurching dangerously.

It reopened in 2002 after engineers refitted 37 energy dissipating dampers to control horizontal movement and 52 inertial dampers to control vertical movement to solve the wobble effect.

You may have seen the Bridge and not realised it….

The Millennium collapsed following an attack by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).

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The Bridge also appeared as part of the climatic battle scene on the planet Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

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And the Bridge was in the video of the Olly Murs song “Heart on my Sleeve”.

To the south the midpoint standing pedestrian on the Bridge sees the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern.

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Above: The Globe Theatre, London

To the north the red brick City of London School (actor Daniel Radcliffe / “Harry Potter” ´s old alma mater) can be spotted nestling below the magnificence that is St. Paul´s Cathedral.

How strange and yet familiar St. Paul´s appeared to me in the fast-approaching darkness.

Above: St. Paul´s Cathedral

The enormous lead-covered dome of St. Paul´s Cathedral has dominated the City skyline for generations and will probably continue to do so for generations to come if Star Trek: Into Darkness is any accurate omen to go by.

The poster shows the USS Enterprise falling toward Earth with smoke coming out of it. The middle of the poster shows the title written in dark gray letters, and the film's credits and the release date are shown at the bottom of the poster.

The Cathedral facade is particularly magnificent, fronted by a wide flight of steps – seen in Mary Poppins (1964) and Sherlock Holmes (2009) – and a two-storey portico and two towers, and is said to be amongst the finest examples of Baroque architecture in London.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, in-character. The background is a window display, featuring shelves containing miscellaneous objects relating to the story. The poster reads "Sherlock Holmes" across the top, with the tagline "Holmes for the holiday" centered at the bottom. The poster is predominately turquoise coloured.

The west front of St. Paul´s shows the Saint surrounded by others of his ilk as he is dazzled by the glory of God whilst on the road to Damascus.

In the northeast churchyard, a plaque marks the location of Paul´s Cross, a popular centre of fake and real news and contemporary commentary, where during the Reformation William Tynsdale´s New Testament was burned because it was sinfully an English translation.

While it can´t compete with Westminster Abbey for celebrity corpses, royal remains and awesome atmosphere, St. Paul´s is nevertheless a perfectly calculated architectural space, a burial place for captains rather than kings, artists not poets, and a popular wedding venue and favoured funeral locale for the privileged few.

The current Cathedral is the fifth on this site, including Old St. Paul´s, a huge Gothic cathedral built by the Normans, with a 489 foot spire that once was part of the longest and tallest Christian church in the world.

During the English Civil War and the Republic which followed the execution of King Charles I in 1649, St. Paul´s was allowed to become dilapidated and was used for stabling horses and as a marketplace with a road running through it.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II threw out the traders and began to return the scarred Cathedral to the status it once had, but before work could begin the Great Fire of London intervened.

The blaze started on 2 September 1666 and destroyed 2/3 of the City of London.

It burned for four days and nights, destroying 13,200 houses and 87 parish churches, including Old St. Paul´s.

Miraculously, fewer than 20 people lost their lives.

In 1668, Christopher Wren was asked to produce a new Cathedral.

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Above: Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723)

Wren was not only an architect, he was also an astronomer, scientist and mathematican.

Wren was a founding member in 1660 of the Royal Society, a national academy for science, but he was also a man of profound Christian faith.

He came from a family of clergy who had been loyal to the Royalist cause during the Civil War, and it was faith which inspired him.

He once explained: “Architecture aims at eternity.”

As an architect favoured by royalty and state, Wren´s commissions varied widely, including the Greenwich Observatory, Greenwich Hospital, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, as well as some magnificent buildings in Oxford, where he studied and worked as Professor of Astronomy from 1661 to 1673.

St. Paul´s was just one of over 50 church commissions Wren received in the wake of the Great Fire.

Sir Christopher Wren

Said, “I´m going to dine with some men.

If anyone calls,

Say I´m designing St. Paul´s.” (Edmund Clerihew Bentley)

Hassles over his initial plans and wrangles over money plagued the project throughout, but Wren persevered and England´s first Protestant cathedral was completed in 1711 under Queen Anne, whose statue stands below the steps.

Above: Statue of Queen Anne (1665 – 1714), St. Paul´s Cathedral

Opinions of Wren´s Cathedral differed.

Some loved it.

“Without, within, below, above, the eye is filled with unrestrained delight.”

Some hated it.

“There was an air of Popery about the gilded capitals, the heavy arches.  They were unfamiliar, un-English…”

Until his death, at the age of 91, Wren regularly returned to St. Paul´s to sit under its dome and reflect on this masterpiece of faith and imagination.

For over 300 years this particular reincarnation of St. Paul´s has been a place where both the individual and the nation can express those feelings of joy, gratitude and sorrow that are so central to our lives.

St. Paul´s has borne witness to the funeral of Admiral Lord Nelson (1758 – 1805)(buried in the centre of the Cathedral Crypt), the funeral of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852)(buried also in the Crypt)(13,000 people filled the Cathedral.), the Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria (1897) and Queen Elizabeth II (2012), the bombs of the Blitz (1940), a sermon from Martin Luther King Jr. (1964), the funerals of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1965) and Margaret Thatcher (2013), and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana (1981).

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Above: Queen Elizabeth II

Services have also been held to mark the valuable contributions made by ordinary women and men involved in armed conflicts in the Falklands, the Persian Gulf and Northern Ireland.

A vast crowd also gathered at St. Paul´s following the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September 2001, as London expressed its solidarity with Americans at a time of great grief.

A montage of eight images depicting, from top to bottom, the World Trade Center towers burning, the collapsed section of the Pentagon, the impact explosion in the south tower, a rescue worker standing in front of rubble of the collapsed towers, an excavator unearthing a smashed jet engine, three frames of video depicting airplane hitting the Pentagon

People of other faiths also have a place in national services at St. Paul´s.

The memorial service for King Hussein of Jordan in 1999 was the first Christian service in St. Paul´s to include a reading from the Qur´an.

A paper Quran opened halfwise on top of a brown cloth

In 2005, at the service of remembrance following the terrorist bombings in London in June of that year, young people representing different faith communities lit candles as a shared sign of hope during turbulent times.

Take a journey through this place mortal designed to evoke the divine.

We took our own calculated journey through St. Paul´s two days later.

 

London, England, 25 October 2017

Begin with the Nave, the font of baptism, marking the beginning of the journey of faith that Christians believe leads from Earth to Heaven.

Here is the final stop, the last resting place, of the Duke of Wellington, best known for his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

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Above: Wellington (1769 – 1852)

Wellington died 37 years later and is buried in the Crypt beneath the Monument.

Nearby in the All Souls´ Chapel is the Kitchener Memorial, dedicated to the servicemen who died in World War I and to Field Marshal Lord Kitchener who died at sea and whose body was never recovered.

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Above: Lord Kitchener (1850 – 1916)

Kitchener is best known for his restructuring of the British Army and for his most effective recruitment campaign reminding Britons that “Your Country Needs You”.

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Quietly light a candle for those you wish to have remembered inside St. Dunstan´s Chapel, a place of prayer and stillness.

The silver pyx that hangs above the altar in this chapel contains the sacrament – the consecrated bread that Christians believe is (or represents) the body of Jesus, shared at services of Holy Communion.

The Chapel of St. Michael and St. George honours those who have rendered important service overseas.

It takes only a modicum of observation to see that St. Paul´s is built in the shape of a cross with a large dome crowning the intersection of the cross´s arms.

At 365 feet / 111.3 metres high, the Dome is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and weighs approximately 65,000 tons.

The area under the Dome is the space where congregations congregate for the Cathedral´s most important rituals of faith – the Liturgy, the worship of God.

The altar is the focus, the place where the Eucharist (mass) is celebrated every day, where people of all ages of many different languages and nationalities, gather to eat bread and drink wine that symbolise the body and blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed by God the Father to save mankind from itself.

Or so the story goes.

The Dome is actually not one dome but three: the outer dome shell is seen prominently on the London skyline, while the painted dome that the congregated sees from the cathedral floor conceals an inner layer of brick which provides the structure strength and support.

Within the Dome´s construction there are three gallery levels.

The Whispering Gallery runs around the interior of the Dome, 257 steep steps up from ground level.

There is a charming acoustical quirk in the gallery´s construction which makes a whisper spoken against the walls on one side audible on the opposite side.

Two higher galleries encircle the outside of the Dome – the Stone Gallery and the smaller Golden Gallery offering superb views across London….

Or so we were told as they were closed the day of our visit.

Upon our descent from the Whispering Gallery, further exploration of the Cathedral reveals many aspects of what makes St. Paul´s unique unto itself.

To the north of the interior is the Chapel of Saints Erkenwald and Ethelburga, with a statue of Dr. Johnson.

Man staring intently at a book held close to his face

Above: Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

Above the altar is William Holman Hunt´s painting The Light of the World, showing Jesus holding a lantern as He knocks at the handleless bramble-strewn door of the human Soul which must be opened from within, above the caption that reads:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. 

If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.”

Close by the Chapel is Henry Moore´s Mother and Child, a sculpture he made when he was recovering from an illness so it is heavily indolent in religious meaning.

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Above: Mother and Child by Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)

By Moore´s Mama Madonna with child are two pairs of wrought-iron gates made by Jean Tijou.

Inside the gates at the top northern part of the architectural cross is the Quire, the first part of the Cathedral to be built.

The organ within, built in 1694 and rebuilt several times, is the third largest in the UK with 7,256 pipes.

The 1694 version of this organ was much loved by the composer George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759).

The organ case and the stalls on both sides of the Quire are decorated with exquisitely delicate carvings by the Anglo-Dutch sculptor Grinling Gibbons, whose work can still be seen in many royal houses and great houses.

One contemporary commentator wrote:

“There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers with the free disorder natural to each species.”

Yet free disorder seems particularly ironic here, as each of the canopied stalls has a designated occupant and definitively determines how the Cathedral is to be governed.

It is within the Quire where choir, clergy and congregation gather to sit for Evensong, the service that draws the day to a close.

As dusk descends, we the people are to be remanded and reminded of the proper calculation of our place in the universe, both manmade and celestial.

Queen Victoria, she of the inaccurately attributed “We are not amused.”, is said to have complained that St. Paul´s was “dull, dingy and undevotional”, so in response William Blake Richmond decorated the ceilings and the walls of the Quire with mosaics depicting the story of Creation and the story of the angel Gabriel´s visitation to the Virgin Mary with the news that she is pregnant with the Son of God.

Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882

Above: Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901)

(That had to be quite the shock!)

Behind the alter stands the Jesus Chapel, commemorating the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or while stationed in, the UK during the Second World War, their names recorded in a 500-page roll of honour glass enclosure.

“Defending freedom from the fierce assaults of tyranny they shared the honour and the sacrifice. 

Though they died before the drum of victory, their names and deeds will long be remembered wherever free men live.”

So reads the American roll of honour, but as the Canadian descendant of Commonwealth soldiery I cannot help but cynically observe that the Cathedral today is funded by multitudes of tourists, the majority of whom are American.

A cynical attitude that is met with a punch in the arm by my loving spouse whose German ancestors were conscripted soldiers of the aforementioned tyranny.

In the south is the statue of John Donne, which somehow survived the Great Fire of London intact.

Above: Statue of John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Donne, a former Dean of St. Paul´s, wrote passionate love poems and eloquent odes expressing with eloquence his zeal for God.

He is perhaps best remembered for his meditation on the human condition:

“No man is an island, entire of itself….

 Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Fourteen bells of St. Paul´s toll for thee: Great Tom tolls to mark the death of a sovereign; Great Paul, the largest swinging bell in Europe, strikes the hours; the remaining twelve bells sound the peal.

And here one finds a statue of Nelson, a cloak covering the area where Nelson´s right arm should be – amputated in 1797.

Three skulls guard the entrance to the Crypt.

Nelson lies buried in a coffin made from the timber of a French ship he defeated in battle, atop a black marble sarcophagus.

Would he have thought his memorial truly “humanity after victory“?

Keeping him company across from him in the Crypt, the Iron Duke, Lord Wellington, rests in a casket of Cornish granite.

Wellie would have hated it, for he was said to be a man not prone to bask in his own glories:

“Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”

Why do places of worship glorify those who murder in the name of a flag?

Beside the Crypt, close to the foundations of the former church, is the Chapel of St. Faith, created in recognition for the contribution made by women during the First World War.

Surrounding the Chapel are memorials celebrating the remarkable of the arts and sciences: painters Joshua Reynolds (1723 – 1792), J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851) and John Guille Millais (1865 – 1931); composer Arthur Sullivan (1842 – 1900) and poet William Blake (1757 – 1827); scientist Alexander Fleming (1881 – 1955).

Sir Christopher Wren himself is buried here, his tomb marked by a simple stone which translated from Latin reads:

Bildergebnis für christopher wren s tomb inscription

“Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.”

And, so we did.

“I was glad when they said unto me:

Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

St. Paul´s has stood here defiantly unscathed amid the carnage of the Blitz and was defended by the St. Paul´s Watch – volunteers who patrolled the Cathedral´s roof every night to combat the incendiary bombs and died carrying out their duties.

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Time and choice did not permit us to see the worship of God at work, or listen to virgin boys attempt in song to reach within us to find something beyond ourselves, or ponder important issues ranging from global economy to climate change by prominent speakers, such as Kofi Annan or Bianca Jagger.

As we leave St. Paul´s, I recall the words of Mary Poppins:

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Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls:
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
 
Come, feed the little birds.
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do.
The young ones are hungry.
Their nests are so bare.
All it takes is tuppence from you.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds.”, that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies.
 
All around the Cathedral, the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.
 
Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”

No, we didn´t feed the birds, for security measures no longer permit little old bird women to feed assemblies of pigeons on the steps of St. Paul´s.

Poverty is very offputting for the tourists and, after all, charity begins at home.

The tourist entry fee at the door is 18 pounds per adult.

In October 2011, the anti-capitalism Occupy London encampment was established in front of St. Paul´s, after failing to gain access to the London Stock Exchange on Paternoster Square nearby, costing the Cathedral revenue of 200,000 pounds per day.

The encampment was evicted at the end of February 2012, by court order, without violence, by the City Corporation.

Our visit to St. Paul´s made me ask, as St. Paul´s Cathedral Arts Project and its artistic installations have asked:

What makes life meaningful and purposeful?

What does St. Paul´s mean in that contemporary context?

Those questions, much like questions of faith themselves, can only be answered by individuals themselves.

Should one care to ask.

Black and White photograph of the dome of St Paul's, starkly lit, appearing through billowing clouds of smoke

Above: St. Paul´s Cathedral, 29 December 1940

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / DK Eyewitness Travel, Top London 2017 / The Rough Guide to London / Lonely Planet, London Condensed / St. Paul´s Cathedral / http://www.stpauls.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Greatest Villain

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 26 May 2017

I read the news and I feel sometimes that all the media seems to report is bad news – news that angers or saddens me.

To be fair, it’s not the media’s fault completely…

Bad things happen in the world.

It is a terrible thing to admit, but nothing encourages us to remember Life more than a sudden threat to it or its sudden ending.

Recently Chris Cornell, former lead singer of the rock groups Audioslave and Soundgarden, died.

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Suddenly I am reminded of two of his songs: Black Hole Sun and You Know My Name (the theme song of the Bond film Casino Royale), which play again and again like a skipping vinyl record in the jukebox of my mind.

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On 22 May, a suicide bombing was carried out at Manchester Arena after a concert by American singer Ariana Grande.

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The attacker was identified by police as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old of Libyan ancestry, who detonated a homemade explosive device as concertgoers were leaving the Arena.

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23 people, including Abedi himself, were killed and approximately 120 were injured.

My ignorance of things Mancunian, Libyan and the music of Ariana Grande is made manifest and I find myself suddenly searching literature both hard copy and electronic to know more about these things in an attempt to understand an event that is incomprehensible.

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Increased hits on search engines like Google show that I am not alone in this regard.

I am saddened by the loss of those so young whose only desire was to celebrate life’s rhythms.

I am saddened by the insanity that would drive a young man to commit such an atrocity.

I am angered that the Right will use this incident as a justification for their Islamophobia, making a cowed and frightened populace accept the usurpation of their freedom in the name of “guaranteed” security and create further hate and violence against others whose only “crime” is being of a different faith.

I am angered by those who would use religion as a justification for violence.

I am saddened that the tendency to label entire groups of people by the actions of a few still remains a constant impulse.

I am saddened that only those who think and act upon their consciences seek justice and compassion, while too many of us crave bloody revenge for this carnage committed against innocents.

I am saddened that those who have been chosen to lead us failed to protect us and may have been partially responsible for the violence visited upon us.

The lines between black and white, villain and hero, remain blurred.

Only the victims seem untainted of blame.

I, like many others, ask what could possibly be gained by anyone committing such an act.

A fearful populace brought to its knees who will seek to appease their attackers?

A spotlight thrown upon our vulnerability?

A desperate attack made to show the consequences of the actions made against others by those who lead us?

Events like Manchester also bring out the conspiracy theorists, whom are much harder to dismiss after a tragedy such as this.

The identification of the villains that inspired such violence is not so clear.

The child within me wishes for an obvious hero to combat such villainy, to save us as we cannot save ourselves.

A hero obvious who tells us: You know my name.

A hero like Bond.

James Bond.

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A person with a license to kill, to mete out revenge disguised as justice.

But is Ian Fleming’s fictional creation, immortalised in literature and film, truly a hero?

“James Bond lives in a nightmarish world where laws are written at the point of a gun, where coercion and rape are considered valour and murder is a funny trick.

Bond’s job is to guard the interests of the property class, and he is no better than the youths Hitler boasted he would bring up like wild beasts to be able to kill without thinking.”

(Yuri Zhukov, Pravda, 30 September 1965)

Harsh criticism, but was this journalist completely inaccurate?

“It was part of his profession to kill people.

He had never liked doing it and when he had to kill he did it as well as he knew how and forgot about it.

As a secret agent who held the rare double-O prefix – the license to kill in the Secret Service – it was his duty to be as cool about death as a surgeon.

If it happened, it happened.

Regret was unprofessional – worse, it was a death-watch beetle in the soul.”

(Ian Fleming, Goldfinger)

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But, by this analysis, where do we draw the line between soldier and criminal?

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Is every act justifiable if it is done for Queen and country, or in the name of religion?

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Since 1953, Bond has been in the public consciousness from Fleming’s literature and since 1962 from a never-ending series of films.

We are reminded of Bond these days, not only for the death of Chris Connell, but for the death, the day after Manchester, of one of the seven actors who have played Bond in the 26 films starring this character (including the Woody Allen spoof of Casino Royale and the independent film Never Say Never Again), Roger Moore, who played the secret agent in seven feature films between 1973 and 1985.

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Above: Sir Roger Moore (1927 – 2017)

Roger Moore died on 23 May 2017, age 89, in his home in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

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It is easy to think of Bond as a hero, for his villains are easy to identify.

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And perhaps it is this dispatching of these villains that has somehow given the character its own immortality, regardless of the mortality of those who portray him on the silver screen.

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Those who portray Bond have a terrible time afterwards of being identified only for the role as Bond.

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Roger Moore, who played Bond more than any other actor, had this typecasting problem.

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But unlike the villains Bond dispatched or the victims of real-life villains that strike down civilians, Moore did not end his days violently.

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In his acting roles, Moore encountered his share of villains who would have delighted in his demise, yet, with the exception of one film, Moore’s character of the moment would survive any and all opposition.

(In the 1956 film Diane, Moore, in the role of French King Henri II, is killed in a jousting tournament.)

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Moore’s characters were survivors, whether he was a highwayman against the armed might of a Duke (The Lion’s Thief, 1955) or a soldier in the Battle of Salamanca (The Miracle, 1959).

Moore played more roles than he is remembered for.

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Moore played Sir William of Ivanhoe (1958 – 59), Silky Harris (The Alaskans, 1959 – 60), 14 Carat John (The Roaring Twenties, 1960 – 62), Beau Maverick (1960 – 61), Simon Templar (The Saint, 1962 – 69), Gary Fenn (Crossplot, 1969), Harold Pelham (The Man Who Haunted Himself, 1970), Lord Brett Sinclair (The Persuaders, 1971), Rod Slater (Gold, 1974), Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes in New York, 1976), Sebastian Oldsmith (Shout at the Devil, 1976), Shawn Fynn (The Wild Geese, 1978), Rufus Excalibar ffolkes (North Sea Hijack, 1979), Major Otto Hecht (Escape to Athena, 1979), Captain Gavin Stewart (The Sea Wolves, 1980),Seymour Goldfarb Jr. (Cannonball Run, 1981), Inspector Clouseau (The Curse of the Pink Panther, 1983), “Adam” (Bed and Breakfast, 1992), Lord Edgar Dobbs (The Quest, 1996), “The Chief” (Spice World, 1997) and Lloyd Faversham (Boat Trip, 2002).

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These TV/movie roles, which can still be seen on websites like YouTube, are just some of the roles Moore played in a long and successful acting career.

Most of these roles had him play the hero.

Most of these roles had moments when the hero’s life was in grave danger.

As Ivanhoe, Moore suffered broken ribs and a battleaxe blow to his helmet.

File:1970TheManWhoHauntedHimself.jpg

In The Man Who Haunted Himself, Moore’s character briefly suffered clinical death after a car accident, but the movie’s director Basil Dearden would die for real in a car accident shortly thereafter.

In For Your Eyes Only, Moore, as Bond, would mourn the death of his wife, though in real life Moore would himself marry four times and was the father of three children.

File:For Your Eyes Only - UK cinema poster.jpg

Moore acted the hero in more than his screen appearances:

He was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (1991) and the voice of Father Christmas in a UNICEF cartoon (2004) and narrated a video for PETA protesting against the production and wholesale of foie gras (2008).

File:UNICEF Logo.png

Moore’s greatest villain was poor health.

He nearly died from double pneumonia when he was five.

He was a long-term sufferer of kidney stones and needed to be hospitalised during the making of the Bond film Live and Let Die (1973) and again during the production of Bond film Moonraker (1979).

In 1993, Moore was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and underwent successful surgery for the disease.

He collapsed on stage while appearing on Broadway in 2003 and was fitted with a pacemaker to treat a potentially deadly slow heartbeat.

In 2012, Moore revealed he had been treated for skin cancer several times.

In 2013, he was diagnosed with diabetes.

His greatest villain, cancer, finally beat him on 23 May 2017.

Terrorism is a villainous act I shall never understand, because despite the headlines it garnishes it is only common to my own life indirectly in headlines.

Diseases, like cancer, on the other hand, are something I, like the common man, can relate to.

In my own life I have lost classmates, my mother and my two foster parents to this disease.

The obituary pages are filled with names of people whose lives were snuffed out by disease.

Still we tend to find death’s arrival after a long battle against a disease easier to cope with, for there is a sense of preparedness / readiness for the fatal end, as unwanted as it may be.

Deaths from accident or from incidents such as Manchester are much harder to accept, for we weren’t ready for our loved ones suddenly departing from our lives.

We are saddened by the deaths of entertainment legends, for we feel that their entertainment touched our lives, but their deaths remind us that, like us, they were mortal too.

But when we compare the death of Moore to the deaths of Manchester, we are left with a sense of unfairness.

Moore was 89 and had lived a full life.

The youngest victim of the Manchester bombing was 8.

Chris Cornell and Salman Abedi could be compared in that they both committed suicide because they were both psychologically unhealthy, but Cornell brought value to the world while Abedi took it away.

So, in these times living in the shadow of death, who or what is the greatest villain?

I believe the greatest villain is: apathy.

When someone dies, whether we knew them or not, it should matter to us.

And it shouldn’t take the death of someone for us to finally realise their value to us.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted.

Don’t take life and health for granted.

Manchester bothers me.

It was senseless and sad.

I refuse to hate.

Abedi was one man, but not all are cast in the same mold.

I refuse to be afraid.

I will live my life to the fullest, knowing that there is no way to predict when my final moment will arrive.

I hope I never forget to be grateful for the life I have and the people within it.

To those reading these words, please know that you are loved and have value.

And it is my hope, whether my life ends in tragic suddenness in some senseless attack or unexpected accident, or if I cling to life against the onslaught of age or disease, that I will be considered to have lived a life of value because I cared.

The greatest villain is apathy.

The best solution is love.

Sources:

James Bond: The Secret World of 007 (Dorling Kindersley)

The James Bond Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley)

Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

New York Times, 24 May 2017

Wikipedia

The rise of Recep

Landschlacht, Switzerland, St. Patrick’s Day 2017

I am a Turkey watcher.

Flag of Turkey

I have twice visited this beautiful country and I have rarely met a Turk I haven`t liked.

I began to talk about Turkey in this blog, because of the event that began 2017: the ISIS attack on a nightclub in Istanbul.

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Above: The Reina restaurant/nightclub, Istanbul

(See this blog’s No Longer My Country 1: Take Me Back to Constantinople and No Longer My Country 2: The fashionable dead.)

Four days later, a PKK car bombing in Izmir made me curious about exactly why the Kurdish people and the Turkish people have been at each other’s throats for decades and I have tried to be objective in writing about what my research has turned up.

I wrote of Turkey`s history from its ancient beginnings until the election of Turgat Özal in 1989.

Location of Turkey

I promised that I would explain why Turkish politics of today, especially the actions of its President, are affected by events of the past.

The events that followed the election of President Özal and all that has taken place in Turkey since 1989 I believe are instructive, for a number of reasons:

The location of Turkey as the crossroads of Asia and Europe, the meeting point of a predominantly Christian West with a predominantly Muslim Middle East, the crucible of secularism vs fundamentalism, makes Turkey one of the major countries I think the world cannot afford to ignore.

The political evolution of Turkey, especially since Recep Erdogan first assumed office as Turkey’s 25th Prime Minister (2003 – 2014) and then its 12th President (2014 – Present), runs very similarly to other nations’ histories and possible destinies.

(See this blog’s The sick man of Europe 1: The sons of Karbala and The sick man of Europe 2: The sorrow of Batman.)

To understand Turkish politics of today, we need to look at how His Excellency became ruler of Turkey and how his mind might work.

Recep Erdogan was born in the Kasimpasa neighbourhood of Istanbul, to which his family had moved from Rize Province.

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Erdogan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a member of the Turkish Coast Guard.

His summer holidays were mostly spent in Güneysu, Rize, where his family originates from.

Throughout his life Erdogan has often returned to his spiritual home and in 2015 he opened a vast mosque on a mountaintop near his village.

His family returned to Istanbul when Erdogan was 13 years old.

See caption

As a teenager he sold lemonade and sesame buns (simit) on the streets of the city’s rougher districts to earn extra money.

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Brought up in an observant Muslim family, Erdogan graduated from Kasimpasa Piyale primary school in 1973, received his high school diploma from Eyüp High School, studied business administration at the Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences – though several sources dispute the claim that he graduated.

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(To be President of Turkey, one must have graduated from a university.)

In his youth Erdogan played semi-professional football for the Kasimpasa football club, but when Fenerbahce Football Club wanted him to join their team his father prevented this.

Kasimpasa.png

While studying business administration and playing football, Erdogan engaged in politics by joining the National Turkish Student Union, an anti-communist action group.

In 1974, Erdogan wrote, directed and played the lead role in the play Maskomya, which presented Freemasonry, Communism and Judaism as evil.

In 1975 Süleyman Demirel, president of the conservative Justice Party succeeded Bülent Ecevit, president of the social-democratic Republican People’s Party as Prime Minister of Turkey.

Demirel formed a coalition government with the Nationalist Front, the Islamist Salvation Party led by Necmettin Erbakan, and the far right Nationalist Movement Party.

Suleyman Demirel 1998.jpg

The 1970s were troubled times for Turkey: many economic and social problems, strike actions and political paralysis.

Turkey’s proportional representation system made it difficult to form any parliamentary majority and an ability to combat the growing violence in the country.

In 1976, Erdogan became the head of the Beyoglu youth branch of the Islamist Salvation Party and was later promoted to the chair of the Istanbul youth branch of the party.

In 1978, Erdogan married Emine Gülbaran of Siirt (a city in southeastern Turkey and capital of Siirt Province) and they have two sons (Ahmet and Necmettin) and two daughters (Esra and Sümeyye).

After the 1980 military coup, Erdogan followed most of Necmettin Erbakan’s followers into the Islamist Welfare Party.

Between 1984 and 1999, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish military engaged in open war.

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Above: Flag of the PKK

The Republic forced inscription, evacuation, destruction of villages, extreme harassment, tortue, illegal arrests, murder and disappearance of Kurdish journalists and executions of Kurds.

Since the 1970s, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for the thousands of human rights abuses.

European Court of Human Rights logo.svg

Erdogan became the party’s Beyoglu district chair in 1984 and a year later became the chair of the Istanbul city branch.

Meanwhile, the military coup leaders under Kenan Evren appointed Turgut Özal state minister and deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs.

Turgut Özal cropped.jpg

Özal formed the Motherland Party (ANAP) in 1983 after the ban on political parties was lifted by the military government.

The ANAP won the elections and he formed the government to become Turkey’s 19th Prime Minister at the end of the year.

When Özal became Prime Minister, the issue of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 was one of topics on his aganda.

Above: Remains of Armenians massacred at Erzinjan

In 1991, after a meeting with representatives of the Armenian community, Özal said in front of journalists and diplomats:

“What happens if we compromise with the Armenians and end this issue?

What if we officially recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide and face up to our past?

Let’s take the initiative and find the truth.

Let’s pay the political and economic price, if necessary.”

Özal was reelected Prime Minister in 1987.

On 18 June 1988 Özal survived an assassination attempt during the ANAP party congress.

One bullet wounded his finger while another bullet missed his head.

The shooter, Kartal Demirag, was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment but was pardoned by Özal in 1992.

On 9 November 1989, Özal became Turkey’s 8th President elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the first president to be born in the Republic of Turkey rather than the Ottoman Empire.

(Demirag was later retried in 2008 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.)

Özal was born in Malatya to a Turkish family with partial Kurdish roots on his mother’s side.

Views from the city

Above: Scenes of the city of Malatya

In 1991 Özal supported the coalition of nations (France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States) against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

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Above: Scenes from the 1991 Gulf War

In the early 1990s Özal agreed to negotiations with the PKK, the events of the Gulf War having changed the political dynamics in the region.

(Kurds make up 17% of Iraq’s population.

In 1974 the Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds.

Between 1975 and 1978, 200,000 Kurds were deported out of oil rich Kurdistan.

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Iraqi government implemented anti-Kurdish policies: the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the wholesale destruction of thousands of Kurdish villages, the deportation of thousands of Kurds.

The Anfal (spoils of war) genocidal campaign destroyed over 2,000 villages and killed 182,000 Kurdish civilians, using ground offensives, aerial bombing, firing squads and chemical attacks, including the most infamous attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 that killed 5,000 civilians instantly.

Above: First Lieutenant of the US 25th Infantry on patrol in fron of Halabja Cemetery

After the collapse of the Kurdish uprising in March 1991, Iraqi troops recaptured most of the Kurdish areas and 1.5 million Kurds abandoned their homes and fled to the Turkish and Iranian borders.

It is estimated that close to 20,000 Kurds succumbed to death due to exhaustion, lack of food, exposure to cold and disease.

On 5 April 1991, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 688, which condemned the repression of Iraqi Kurdish civilians and demanded that Iraq end its repressive measures and allow immediate access to international humanitarian organisations.

Flag of United Nations Arabic: الأمم المتحدةSimplified Chinese: 联合国French: Organisation des Nations uniesRussian: Организация Объединённых НацийSpanish: Naciones Unidas

In mid-April, the Coalition established safe havens inside Iraqi borders and prohibited Iraqi planes from flying north of the 36th parallel.

Kurds held parliamentary elections in May 1992 and established the Kurdistan Regional Government.)

Apart from Özal, few Turkish politicians were interested in a peace process with the Kurds, nor was more than a part of the PKK itself.

In 1993 Özal worked on peace plans with former finance minister Adnan Kahveci and General Commander of the Turkish Gendarmerie Esref Bitlis.

Negotiations led to a ceasefire declaration by the PKK on 20 March 1993.

With the PKK’s ceasefire declaration achieved, Özal planned to propose a major pro-Kurdish reform package at the next meeting of the National Security Council.

On 17 April 1993 Özal died of a suspicious heart attack, leading some to suspect an assassination.

Özal died just before he had the chance to negotiate with the PKK.

A month later a PKK ambush on 24 May 1993 ensured the end of the peace process.

After Özal’s death, his policies of compromising with the Armenians in order to solve the conflict concerning the Armenian Genocide were abandoned.

Özal’s wife Semra claimed he had been poisoned by lemonade and she questioned the lack of an autopsy.

Blood samples taken to determine his cause of death were lost or disposed of.

Tens of thousands of people attended the state burial ceremony in Istanbul.

(On the 14th anniversary of his death, thousands gathered in Ankara in commemoration.

Investigators wanted to exhume the body to examine it for poisoning.

On 3 October 2012 Özal’s body was exhumed.

It contained the banned insecticide DDT at ten times the normal level.)

Under the new President Süleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Tansu Siller, the Castle Plan – to use any and all means to solve the Kurdish question using violence – which Özal had opposed, was enacted.

In the local elections of 27 March 1994, Erdogan was elected Mayor of Istanbul (1994 – 1998).

Many feared that he would impose Islamic law.

However he was pragmatic in office, tackling chronic problems in Istanbul, including water shortage, pollution and traffic chaos.

The water shortage problem was solved with the laying of hundreds of kilometres of new pipeline.

The garbage problem was solved with the establishment of state-of-the-art recycling facilities.

Air pollution was reduced by making public buses more environmentally friendly.

Istanbul’s traffic and transportation jams were reduced with more than 50 bridges, viaducts and highways built.

Erdogan took precautions to prevent corruption, using measures to ensure that municipal funds were used prudently.

He paid back a major portion of Istanbul’s two billion dollar debt and invested four billion dollars in the city.

Erdogan initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul Conference, which led to an organised global movement of mayors.

In December 1997, while in his wife’s hometown of Siirt, defending his party from being declared unconstitutional by the Turkish government, Erdogan recited a poem from a work written by Ziya Gökalp, a Turkish activist of the early 20th century.

Above: The Ebul Vefa Mosque, Siirt

(To understand Turkey, one must never forget that this is a country that subscribes to the “great man” view of history and politics.

Travellers in Turkey find portraits of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 1938) everywhere.

Ataturk mirror.png

Atatürk created modern Turkey, not only by reclaiming from the Ottoman Empire virtually all the territory that we call Turkey today but as well by lending his name to a series of reforms to demonstrate the uniqueness of living in Turkey – the elimination of the fez, the alteration of the calendar to make Saturday and Sunday the weekend, women encouraged to enter more fully into public life by no longer making veiling compulsory, the adoption of the Latin alphabet, to name just a few changes that led to genuine transformation of the most intimate moments of the Turkish people’s lives.

Mehmed Ziya Gökalp (1876 – 1924) was a Turkish sociologist, writer, poet and political activist whose work was particularly influential in shaping the reforms of Atatürk.

Above: Ziya Gökalp

Influenced by contemporary European thought, particularly the views of Émile Durkheim, Gökalp rejected the unity of the Ottoman Empire or unity through Islam, in favour of Turkish nationalism through the promotion of the Turkish language and culture.

Emile Durkheim.jpg

Above: Émile Durkheim (1858 – 1917)

Gökalp believed that a nation must have a “shared consciousness” in order to survive, that “the individual becomes a genuine personality only as he becomes a genuine representative of his culture”.

He believed that a modern state must become homogeneous in terms of culture, religion and national identity.

In an 1911 article, Gökalp suggested that “Turks are the ‘supermen’ imagined by the German philosopher Nietzsche”.

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Above: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

Gökalp differentiated between Avrupalilik (Europeanism – the mimicking of Western socieities) and Modernlik (taking initiative).

He was interested in Japan as a model for this, for he perceived Japan as having modernised itself without abandoning its innate cultural identity.

Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle [2]

Above: Flag of Japan

Gökalp suggested that to subordinate “culture” (non-utilitarian, altruist public-spiritedness) to “civilisation” (utilitarian. egotistical individualism) was to doom a state to decline.

“Civilisation destroyed societal solidarity and morality.”

(Many historians and sociologists have suggested that his brand of nationalism contributed to the Armenian Genocide.)

Gökalp’s poetry served to complement and popularise his sociological and nationalist views.)

Erdogan’s recitation of Gökalp’s work included verses which are not in the original version of the poem:

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

Sultan Ahmed Mosque.jpg

Aboe: The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Under Article 312/2 of the Turkish Penal Code, Erdogan’s recitation was regarded as an incitement to violence and religious/racial hatred.

In 1998, his fundamentalist Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional on the grounds of threatening the secularism of Turkey and was shut down by the Turkish Constitutional Court.

Erdogan was given a ten-month prison sentence of which he served four. (24 March – 27 July 1999)

Due to his conviction, Erdogan was banned from participating in parliamentary elections.

As 9th President of Turkey, His Excellency Süleyman Demirel had four Prime Ministers rise and fall during his time in office:

Tansu Ciller

Tansu Çiller 2015 (Cropped).jpg

(Turkey’s 22nd and first and only female Prime Minister (1993 – 1996), Ciller was responsible for the aforementioned Castle Plan, the persuasion of the United States to label the PKK as a terrorist organisation, the creation of a budget plan that led to a lack of confidence in her government and an almost total collapse of the Turkish lira, was alleged to have supported the failed 1995 Azerbaijan coup d’état, claimed Turkish sovereignty over the islands of Imia and Kardak almost leading to war with joint claimant Greece and was implicated in the Susurluk Scandal involving the close relationship between her government, the armed forces and organised crime.)

Necmettin Erbakan (1926 – 2011)

Necmettin Erbakan.jpg

(Turkey’s 23rd Prime Minister (1996 – 1997), Erbakan formed a coalition government with Ciller acting as Deputy Prime Minister and strongly promoted close cooperation and unity among Muslim countries.

He was the founder of the still-existent D8 (Developing Eight) Organization for Economic Cooperation, whose goal is increased economic and political unity between its members (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey).

Official logo for D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation.png

Erbakan found his popularity wane when he made fun of the nightly repetition of demonstrations against his Deputy Prime Minister.

He was strongly encouraged by the military to resign over his perceived violation of the separation of religion and state as mandated by the Turkish Constitution.)

Mesut Yilmaz

Pehlivanoğlu Ozal Yilmaz(cropped).jpg

(Turkey’s 21st Prime Minister (June – November 1991, March- June 1996, 1997 – 1999), Yilmaz quickly began to fade for his 3rd and final time as Prime Minister.

In October 1998, he threatened “to poke out the eyes of Syria” over Syrian President Hafez  al-Assad’s (1930 – 2000)(18th President of Syria: 1971 – 2000) alleged support of the FKK.

Flag of Syria

Above: The flag of Syria

(During Assad’s presidency, Syria’s relations with Turkey were tense.

Hafez al-Assad.jpg

An important issue between the countries was water supply and Syria’s support to the PKK.

Assad offered help to the PKK enabled it to receive training in the Beka’a’ Valley in Lebanon.

Abdullah Öcalan, one of the founders of the PKK, openly used Assad’s villa in Damascus as a base for operations.

Abdullah Öcalan.png

Turkey threatened to cut off all water supplies to Syria.

However, when the Turkish Prime Minister or President sent a formal letter to the Syrian leadership requesting it to stop supporting the PKK, Assad ignored them.

At that time, Turkey could not attack Syria due to its low military capacity near the Syrian border, and advised the European NATO members to avoid becoming involved in Middle East conflicts in order to avoid escalating the West’s conflict with the Warsaw Pact states, since Syria had good relations with the Soviet Union.

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Above: Logo of the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance

However, after the end of the Cold War, Turkish military concentration on the Syrian border increased.

In mid-1998, Turkey threatened Syria with military action because of Syrian aid to Öcalan, and in October it gave Syria an ultimatum.

Assad was aware of the possible consequences of Syria’s continuing support to the PKK.

Turkey was militarily powerful while Syria had lost the support of the Soviet Union.

The Russian Federation was not willing to help; neither was it capable of taking strong measures against Turkey.

Facing a real threat of military confrontation with Turkey, Syria signed the Adana Memorandum in October 1998, which designated the PKK as a terrorist organization and required Syria to evict it from its territory.

After the PKK was dissolved in Syria, Turkish-Syrian political relations improved considerably, but issues such as water supplies from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers remained unsolved.)

In December 1998, in an attempt to privatise the Turkish Trade Bank, allegations of cooperation with Mafia boss Alaattin Cakici began to arise.

Mustafa Bülent Ecevit

Bülent Ecevit-Davos 2000 cropped.jpg

(Turkey’s 16th Prime Minister (January – November 1974, June – July 1977, 1978 – 1979, 1999 – 2002), Ecevit would try to bring economic reforms, aimed at stabilizing the Turkish economy, in order to gain full membership into the European Union.)

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background

(Despite lasting only ten months, Ecevit’s first government was responsible for the successful Turkish invasion of Cyprus, for which he is nicknamed the ‘conqueror of Cyprus’. (Turkish: Kıbrıs Fatihi) )

In 2000, Ahmet Necdet Sezer was elected as Turkey’s 10th President (2000 – 2007) after Süleyman Demirel’s seven-year term expired.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer.jpg

The Prime Ministers during Demiril’s term with their unstable coalitions, rampant corruption and lack of durability caused the Turkish people to become highly disillusioned with their government.

Their lack of faith would cause foreign nations to carefully examine any investment in Turkey.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Turkey relied heavily on foreign investment for economic growth.

The government was already running enormous budget deficits, which it managed to sustain by selling huge quantities of high-interest bonds to Turkish banks.

Continuing inflation and the enormous flow of foreign capital had meant that the government could avoid defaulting on the bonds in the short term.

As a consequence, Turkish banks came to rely on these high yield bonds as a primary investment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1996 warned the Turkish government of an impending financial crisis because of the deficit.

International Monetary Fund logo.svg

Turkey’s unstable political landscape led many foreign investors to divest from the country.

As foreign investors observed the political turmoil and the government’s attempts to eleiminate the budget deficit, they withdrew $70 billion worth of capital in a matter of months.

This left a vacuum of capital that Turkish banks were unable to alleviate because the government was no longer able to pay off its bonds.

With no capital to speak of, the Turkish economy declined dramatically.

By 2000 there was massive unemployment, a lack of medicine, tight credit, slow production and increasing taxes.

In November 2001, the IMF provided Turkey with $11.4 billion in loans and Turkey sold many of its state-owned industries in a effort to balance the budget.

But these stabilisation efforts were not producing meaningful effects and the IMF loan was widely seen as insufficient.

On 19 February 2001, Prime Minister Ecevit emerged from an angry meeting with President Sezer saying:

“This is a serious crisis.”

This statement underscored the financial and political instability and led to further panic in the markets.

Stocks plummeted, interest rates reached 3,000%, large quantities of Turkish lira were exchanged for US dollars or euros, causing the Turkish Central Bank to lose $5 billion of its reserves.

Above: Symbol for the Turkish lira

The crash triggered even more economic turmoil.

In the first eight months of 2001, nearly 15,000 jobs were lost, the US dollar was equal to 1,500,000 lira, and income inequality was greater than ever.

Despite this, the government made swift progress in bringing about an economic recovery.

Nevertheless, almost half of his party in the parliament left to form the New Turkey Party(YTP).

Added to this economic crisis, allegations of corruption, as well as Ecevit’s poor health, made early elections unavoidable and the DSP faced an electoral wipeout in the 2002 general elections losing all of its MPs.

In 2001, Erdogan established the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Justice and Development Party

The AKP won a landslide victory and Erdogan assumed office as Turkey’s 25th Prime Minister on 14 March 2003.

Erdogan inherited a Turkish economy just beginning to recover, unresolved issues with the Kurds and the Armenians, the need to improve democratic standards and the rights of minorities, the need to reform labour laws, the need to invest in education, the need to increase Turkey’s infrastructure, as well as the need to reform the Turkish healthcare system and social security.

Recep Tayip Erdogan, born 1954, had come a long way from selling simit in rough districts, or kicking a football, or sitting in a prison cell for speaking ill-chosen words.

He had shown he could rise above coups and his party being declared unconstitutional and dissolved and could improve the lives and the prospects of one of Turkey’s oldest and populous cities.

Erdogan would go on to be known by two, completely contrary to each other, titles:

  • the most successful politician in the Republic of Turkey’s history
  • the world’s most insulted president

Erdogan was Prime Minister for 11 years and has been President for almost three years with four more years to go in his mandate.

And he seemed to start off so well…

(To be continued…)

Sources: Wikipedia / Andrew Finkel, Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the veil: Islam(ophobia) for dummies

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 1 March 2017

There are moments when the well runs dry, the fire is out, the spirit extinguished.

Moments when I look at this blank screen and ask myself:

What should I write about?

Regular readers of my blog (both of them?!) patiently wait for some blog series to continue and/or conclude – That Which Survives (Brussels/Brontes), The sick man of Europe and the sons of Karbala (Turkish/Kurdish relations), The Underestimated (Switzerland) – but I seek to find opportunities when writing upon these themes seems appropo for the current time and events of the moment.

On a regular basis, I buy daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines in the hopes that they will generate ideas of themes to discuss, but these media must somehow move me to react strongly to provoke words and thoughts out of me.

This morning I was uninspired.

Completely.

Though President Trump (two words I never thought I’d see together / two words that just seem wrong together) and his first speech to Congress yesterday seemed to be all anyone could talk about – what did he say? what did he not say? what did it all mean? – I honestly could not decide what I could say in this blog that hadn’t already been said by professionals more cleverer than I.

Coat of arms or logo

I had worked hard on my last blog post Bleeding Beautiful, trying to bring to the reader a semblance of connectiveness to the shooting of an Indian IT specialist in Kansas, a sense of place and time to the incident and a sensory sensitivity to help the reader relate his/her own life to the incident.

From left: Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who died; Alok Madasani, who was injured; and Ian Grillot, also injured

From left: Srinivas Kuchibhotia, who died; Alok Madasani, who was injured; Ian Grillot, also injured

So my mind felt it had to take a step back and meditate for a time before finding, yet again, the passion and the patience it takes to weave words into worthwhile reading.

Then a visit to Konstanz generated three sources of inspiration: We Are The Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama, a back-ordered copy of Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, and the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.

Then I knew what I wanted to share with you, my gentle readers…

America has become afraid.

Flag of the United States

9/11 was a wake-up call…

Americans could be attacked, not only in fields foreign or upon exotic embassies or military machines, but in US streets, in US fields, fury visited from the skies and visited from within.

Not even the Second World War, with its millions of lives destroyed, had shown Americans attacked on the soil of the continental United States, if one does not include war with neighbours or amongst brothers.

But the images of passenger jets striking the Twin Towers was so shocking, so powerful, that even Presidents on tour could only sit stunned with disbelief, trying to grasp the surrealness of such an unreal situation.

It has been established that credit has been taken by and blame leveled at al Qaeda, who killed 3,000 people on that day –  innocent men, women and children from the US and other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody.

Flag of Jihad.svg

Above: Black standard of al Qaeda

al Qaeda chose to murder, claim credit for the bloodshed and state their determination to kill on a massive scale.

Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda, or Boko Borom, or ISIS/ISIL/Daesh to lay down their arms.

Many Muslims protest against and publicly condemn the twisted fantasies of extremists who commit acts of terrorism.

Others say that these types are not true Muslims.

“Those people have nothing to do with Islam.” is the refrain.

And no one seems to see the irony that, of all the non-Western religions, Islam stands closest to the West, both geographically and ideologically.

Despite Christian, Jew and Muslim all descending from the family of Abraham religiously and Greek thought philosophically, Islam remains the most difficult religion for the West to understand.

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 2 March 2017

“No part of the world is more hopelessly and systematically and stubbornly misunderstood by us than that complex of religion, culture and geography known as Islam.”

(Meg Greenfield, Newsweek, 26 March 1979)

Proximity is no guarantee of concord, of harmony.

More homicides occur within families than anywhere else.

Common borders have given rise to border disputes.

Raids lead to counterraids and escalate into vendettas, blood feuds and war.

There have been times and places Christians, Muslims and Jews have all lived together harmoniously, but for a good part of the last fifteen hundred years, Islam and the West have been at war.

People seldom have, and often do not want, a fair picture of their enemies.

It is easier to misunderstand while remaining faithful to our deepest values, but we need to discover through dialogue, observation and thought that there doesn’t have to be conflict between Islam and the rest of the world.

“As a student of history, I know civilisation’s debt to Islam.

It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.

It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.

Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires, timeless poetry and cherished music, elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.

Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated, through words and deeds, the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Islam has always been a part of America’s story.

The first nation to recognise the United States was Morocco.

Flag of Morocco

Above: The flag of Morocco

In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, President John Adams wrote:

Official Presidential portrait of John Adams (by John Trumbull, circa 1792).jpg

Above: John Adams (1735 – 1826)(2nd US President: 1735 – 1826)

“The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”

And since America was founded, Muslims have enriched the United States…

partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t.”

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling

Barack Obama (born 1961)(44th US President: 2009 – 2017)

(Barack Obama, “A New Beginning”, Cairo, Egypt, 4 June 2009)

“Although I loathe what terrorists do, I realise that, according to the minimal entry requirements for Islam, they are Muslims.

Islam demands only that a believer affirm that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger.

Violent jihadists certainly believe this.

That is why major religious institutions in the Islamic world have rightly refused to label them as non-Muslims, even while condemning their actions…

…Even if their readings of Islamic Scripture seem warped and out of date, they have gained traction…

…As the extremists’ ideas have spread, the circle of Muslims clinging to other conceptions of Islam has begun to shrink.

And as it has shrunk, it has become quieter and quieter, until only the extremists seem to speak and act in the name of Islam.”

Above: United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Russia Omar Saif Ghobash (born 1971, Ambassador since 2009)(on the left) with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (on the right)

(Omar Saif Ghobash, “Advice for Young Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017)

“The very name of Islam means “the peace that comes when one’s life is surrendered to God”.

This makes Islam – together with Buddhism, from budh (awakening) – one of the two religions that is named after the attribute it seeks to cultivate.

In Islam’s case, life’s total surrender to God.

Successfully surrendering one’s life to God requires an understanding of what it is God wants.

Until the 20th century, Islam was called Muhammadism by the West, which to Muslims is not only inaccurate but offensive.

It is inaccurate, Muslims say, because Muhammad didn’t create Islam.

God did.

Muhammad was merely God’s mouthpiece.

The title of Muhammadism is offensive, because it conveys the impression that Islam focuses on a man rather than on God.

To name Christianity after Christ is appropriate, for Christians believe that Christ was/is God.

To call Islam Muhammadism is like calling Christianity St. Paulism.

Islam begins not with Muhammad in 6th century Arabia, but with God.

In the beginning God…

Islam calls God Allah by joining the definite article al (the) with Ilah (God)- literally Allah means the God, not a god, for there is only one.

The blend of admiration, respect and affection that Muslims feel for Muhammad is impressive.

They see him as a man who experienced life in exceptional range – shepherd, merchant, hermit, exile, soldier, lawmaker, prophet, priest, king, mystic, husband, father, widower – but they never mistake Muhammad for the earthly centre of their faith.

That place is reserved for the scripture of Islam, the Koran.

The word al-qur’an in Arabic means the recitation.

As discomfitting as it is for Christians to contemplate, the Koran is perhaps the most recited, the most read, book in the world.

The Koran is the world’s most memorised book and possibly the book that exerts the most influence on those who read it.

Muslims tend to read the Koran literally.

In almost exactly the way Christians consider Jesus to have been the human incarnation of God, Muslims consider the Koran to be the human recitation of God.

If Christ is God incarnate, the Koran is God inlibriate.”

Huston Smith.jpg

Above: Huston Smith (1919 – 2016)

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

In my personal library here in Landschlacht I have a number of books on the topic of religion, including the scriptures of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

I have different versions of the Christian Bible and I also possess books that examine morality from secular and atheistic points of view.

But I am neither a practioner of, nor scholar of, religion.

Rather I seek to understand the power of religion upon so many people on this planet, in a humble quest to seek out a kernel of commonality and truth that might, in time, unite us in ways the conflict of faiths cannot.

The Koran, even in English translation, is not an easy read.

It is not the kind of book one can read in bed on a rainy day.

Nothing but a sense of duty could carry an agnostic Canadian through the Koran.

Flag of Canada

“The European will peruse with impatience its endless incoherant rhapsody of fable and precept and declamation, which seldom excites a sentiment or an idea, which sometimes crawls in the dust and is sometimes lost in the clouds.”

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Above: Edward Gibbon (1737 – 1794)

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

“The language in which the Koran was proclaimed, Arabic, is the key.

Muhammed asked his people:

“Do you ask for a greater miracle than this, O unbelieving people, than to have your language chosen as the language of that incomparable Book, one piece of which puts all your golden poetry to shame?” “

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

“No people in the world are so moved by the word, spoken or written, as the Arabs.

Hardly any language seems capable of exercising over the minds of its users such irresistable influence as Arabic.”

(Philip Hitti, The Arabs: A Short History)

“Crowds in Cairo, Damascus or Baghdad can be stirred to the highest emotional pitch by statements that, when translated, seem lifeless and banal.

The rhythm, the melody, the rhyme of Arabic produces a powerful hypnotic effect.

The power of the Koran lies not only in the literal meaning of its words, but in the sound of the language in which it is recited.

Translation cannot convey the emotion, the fervor, the mystery that the Koran holds in its original Arabic.

This is why, in sharp contrast to Christians, who have translated their Bible into every script known to man, Muslims prefer to teach others the language in which they believe Allah spoke finally with incomparable force and directness.

The language of Islam remains a matter of sharp controversy.

Orthodox Muslims feel that the ritual use of the Koran must be in Arabic, but there are many who believe that those who do not know Arabic should read the Koran in translation.

A paper Quran opened halfwise on top of a brown cloth

Language is not the only barrier the Koran presents to outsiders, for its content is unlike other religious texts.

The Koran is not explicitly metaphysical like the Upanishads, not grounded in drama like the Hindu epics, nor historical narrative like Hebrew scriptures.

Unlike the Gospels of the New Testament or within the chapters of the Bhagavid-Gita, God is not revealed in human form within the Koran.

The overwhelming message of the Koran is to proclaim the unity, omnipotence, omniscience and mercy of God and the total dependence of human life upon God.

The Koran is essentially naked doctrine –  doctrine stripped of chronological order, doctrine stripped of epic character or drama, doctrine stripped of commentary and allusion.

In the Koran God speaks in the first person, describing Himself and making known His laws, directly to mankind through the words and the sounds of this holy book.”

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

“The Qur’an does not document what it is other than itself.

It is not about the truth.

It is the truth.”

(Kenneth Cragg, Readings in the Qur’an)

“Islam does not apologise for itself, try to explain itself or attempt to seduce others into its fold by altering its form.

And for the non-Islamic outsider, it is this nonconformity, this inflexibility, that makes compassion and comprehension of Islam so very difficult.

Certainly it seems that the message of the Koran proclaiming the unity, omnipotence, omniscience and glory of Allah is uncompromising, but outsiders miss and misinterpret that Islam is more than the recognition of the majesty of Allah, Islam is the mercy of Allah manifested as Peace.

The Koran, 4/5 of the length of the New Testament, divided into 114 chapters (surahs), cites Allah’s compassion and mercy 192 times and Allah’s wrath and vengence only 17 times.

Is this Koranic description of Allah as “the Holy, the Peaceful, the Faithful, the Guardian over His servants, the Shelterer of the orphan, the Guide of the erring, the Deliverer from every affliction, the Friend of the bereaved, the Consoler of the afflicted” anything else but loving?

“In His hand is good, and He is the generous Lord, the Gracious, the Hearer, the Near-at-Hand, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Very-forgiving, whose love for man is more tender than that of the mother bird for her young.” “

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

Is this the Allah of jihadists?

“We need to speak out, but it is not enough to declare in public that Islam is not violent or radical or angry, that Islam is a religion of peace.

We need to take responsibility for the Islam of peace.

We need to demonstrate how it is expressed in our lives and the lives of those in our community.”

(Omar Saif Ghobash, “Advice for Young Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017)

“The use of force is one aspect of Islam that is often misunderstood and maligned by non-Muslims.

The Koran does not counsel turning the other cheek or pacifism.

It teaches forgiveness and the return of good for evil when the circumstances warrant it.

Muhammad left many traditions regarding the decent conduct of war.

Agreements are to be honoured and treachery avoided.

The wounded are not to be mutilated, nor the dead disfigured.

Women, children and the old are to be spared, as are orchards, crops and sacred objects.

The important question is the definition of a righteous war.

According to the Koran, a righteous war must either be defensive or to right a wrong.

The agressive and unrelenting hostility of Islam’s enemies forced Muhammad to seize the sword in self-defence, or, together with his entire community and his faith, be wiped from the face of the Earth.

That other religious teachers succumbed under force and became martyrs was to Muhammad no reason that he should do the same.

Having seized the sword in self-defence Muhammad held onto it to the end.

This much Muslims acknowledge.

Above: The Umayyad Empire at its greatest extent

But Muslims insist that while Islam has at times spread by the sword, Islam has mostly spread by persuasion and example.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Koran, al-Baqarah 256)

“To everyone have we given a law and a way.

And if God had pleased, he would have made all mankind one people of one religion.

But He has done otherwise, that He might try you in that which He has severally given to you.

Therefore press forward in good works.

Unto God shall you return and He will tell you that concerning which you disagree.” (Koran, al-Ma’ida 48)

“Will you then force men to believe when belief can come only from God?” (Muhammed quoted by Ameer Ali, The Spirit of Islam)

How well Muslims have lived up to Muhammad’s principles of toleration is a question of history that is far too complex to admit of a simple, objective and definitive answer.

Objective historians are of one mind in their verdict that, to put the matter minimally, Islam’s record on the use of force is no darker than that of Christianity.

Every religion at some stages in its career has been used by its professed adherents to mask aggression.

Islam is no exception.

Muslims deny that Islam’s record of intolerance and agression is greater than that of the other major religions.

Muslims deny that Western histories are fair to Islam in their accounts of its use of force.

Muslims deny that the blots in their record should be charged against their religion whose presiding ideal Muslims affirm in their standard greeting:

As-salamu ‘alaykum. (Peace be upon you)”

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 1 March 2017

“Two attacks on Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia last week have resulted in an outpouring of more than $136,000 in donations from thousands of Muslims and others, who have pledged to financially support Jewish institutions if there are further attacks.

636240774489231362-MS-030217-jewish-cemetery-A.jpg

Jewish organisations have reported a sharp increase in harassment.

The Jewish Community Center Association of North America, which represents Jewish community centres, said 21 Jewish institutions, including eight schools, had received bomb threats on Monday alone.

Jewish Community Center logo.png

Two Muslim activists, Linday Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, asked Muslims to donate $20,000 in a crowdfunding effort to repair hundreds of Jewish headstones that were toppled nead St. Louis last week.

That goal was reached in three hours.

El-Messidi said on Monday that the money raised would most likely be enough to repair the graves near St. Louis and in Philadelphia, where about 100 headstones were toppled on Sunday.

Any extra money will be held in a fund to help after attacks on Jewish institutions in the future, which could mean removing a spray-painted swastika or repairing the widespread damage seen in the graveyards.

About 1/3 of the donations have come from non-Muslims, but El-Messidi said it was especially important for Muslims to support Jews as they deal with anti-Semitic attacks.

“I hope our Muslim community, just as we did last week with St. Louis, will continue to stand with our Jewish cousins to fight this type of hatred and bigotry.”, El-Messidi said.

Barbara Perle, 66, of Los Angeles said on Monday that several of her family members were buried in the vandalised Chesel Shel Emeth Cemetery near St. Louis.

In her eyes, an attack on one gravestone in a Jewish cemetery was an attack on them all.

Perle said she had reached out to thank El-Messidi and that she had “come to understand more about our shared humanity.”

"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

(Daniel Victor, “Muslims pledge aid to Jewish institutions“, New York Times, 1 March 2017)

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 3 March 2017

I am not saying that Muslims should accept blame for what terrorists do.

I am saying that we can take responsibility by demanding a different understanding of Islam.

We can make clear to Muslims and non-Muslims, that another reading of Islam is possible and necessary.

We need to act in ways that make clear how we understand Islam and its operation in our lives.

I believe we owe that to all the innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who have suffered at the hands of our coreligionists in their misguided extremism.

Taking that sort of responsibility is hard, especially when many people outside the Muslim world have become committed Islamophobes, fearing and hating Muslims, sometimes with the encouragement of political leaders.

When you feel unjustly singled out and attacked, it is not easy to look at your beliefs and think them through.”

(Omar Saif Ghobash, “Advice for Young Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017)

“For Muslims, life has basically two obligations.

The first is gratitude for the life that has been received.

The Arabic word “infidel” is closer in meaning towards “one who lacks thankfulness” than one who disbelieves.

The more gratitude one feels, the more natural it feels to let the blessings of life to flow through one’s life and on to others, for hoard these blessings to only ourselves is as unnatural as trying to dam a waterfall.

The second obligation lies within the name of the religion itself.

“Islam” means “surrender”, not in the sense of miltiary defeat, but rather in the context of a wholehearted giving of oneself – to a cause, to friendship, to love.

Islam is, in other words, commitment.

The five pillars of this commitment to the straight path are:

  1. Confession of faith: The affirmation “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet.” said correctly, slowly, thoughtfully, aloud, with full understanding and with heartfelt conviction.

2. Constant prayer:  To give thanks for life’s existence, to keep life in perspective, routinely done five times a day when possible, publicly when possible, kneeling and facing towards Mecca

Masjid al-Haram and the center of Mecca

3. Charity: Those who have much should help lift the burden of those who are less fortunate.

4.  The observance of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month:

Welcome Ramadhan.jpg

From the first moment of dawn to the setting of the sun, neither food nor drink nor smoke passes the Muslim’s lips.

After sundown, these may be consumed in moderation.

Why?

Fasting makes one think.

Fasting teaches self-discipline.

Fasting underscores one’s dependence on God, reminding one of a person’s fraility.

Fasting sensitizes compassion: Those who have fasted for 29 days tend to be more sympathetic to those who are hungry.

5. Pilgrimage: Once during his/her lifetime every Muslim who is physically and economically in a position to do so is expected to journey to Mecca.

The basic purpose of the pilgrimage is to heighten the pilgrim’s devotion to God.

The conditions of the pilgrimage are a reminder of human equality.

Upon reaching Mecca, pilgrims remove their normal attire, which carries marks of social status, and don two simple sheet-like garments.

Distinctions of rank and hierarchy are removed.

Prince and pauper stand before God in their undivided humanity.

A pilgrimage brings together people from various countries, demonstrating that they share a loyalty that transcends nations and ethnic groupings.

Pilgrims pick up information about other lands and peoples and return to their homes with better understanding of one another.”

(Huston Smith, The World’s Religions)

“You will inevitably come across Muslims who shake their heads at the state of affairs in the Islamic world and mutter:

“If only people were proper Muslims, then none of this would be happening.”

Some Muslims will say this when criticising official corruption in Muslim countries and when pointing out the alleged spread of immorality.

Some Muslims say this when promoting various forms of Islamic rule.

“Islam is the solution.”

It’s a brilliant slogan.

Lots of people believe in it.

The slogan is a shorthand for the argument that all the most glorious achievements in Islamic history – the conquests, the empires, the knowledge production, the wealth – occurred under some system of religious rule.

Therefore, if we want to revive this past glory in the modern era, we must reimpose such a system.

This argument holds that if a little Islam is good, then more Islam must be even better.

And if more Islam is better, then complete Islam must be best.

The most influential proponent of that position today is ISIS, with its unbridled enthusiasm for an all-encompassing religious caliphate.

Black Standard[1]

Above: Black standard of ISIS

It can be difficult to argue against that position without seeming to dispute the nature of Islam’s origins: the Prophet Muhammad was not only a religious leader but a political leader as well.

And this argument rests on the inexorable logic of extreme faith:

If Muslims declare that they are acting in Allah’s name, and if Muslims impose the laws of Islam, and if Muslims ensure the correct mental state of the Muslim population living in a chosen territory, then Allah will intervene to solve all our problems.

The genius of this argument is that any difficulties or failures can be attributed to the people’s lack of faith and piety.

Leaders need not fault themselves or their policies.

Citizens need not question their values or customs.

But piety will take us only so far.

Relying entirely on God to provide for us, to solve our problems, to feed and educate and clothe our children, is to take God for granted.

The only way we can improve the lot of the Muslim world is by doing what people elsewhere have done, and what Muslims in earlier eras did, in order to succeed:

Educate ourselves and work hard and engage with life’s difficult questions rather than retreat into religious obscurantism (intentional obscurity and vagueness).

Today, some Muslims demand that all Muslims accept only ideas that are Muslim in origin – namely, ideas that appear in the Koran, the early dictionaries of the Arabic language, the sayings of the Prophet, and the biographies of the Prophet and his Companions.

Meanwhile, Muslims must reject foreign ideas such as democracy, they maintain.

Confronted with more liberal views, which present discussion, debate and consensus building as ancient Islamic traditions, they contend that democracy is a sin against Allah’s power, against His will and against His sovereignty.

Some extremists are even willing to kill in defense of that position.

But do such people even know what democracy is?

Another “foreign” practice that causes a great deal of concern to Muslims is the mixing of the sexes.

Some Muslim-majority countries mandate the separation of the sexes in schools, universities and the workplace.

Authorities in these countries present such rules as being “truly Islamic” and argue that they solve the problem of illicit relationships outside marriage.

Perhaps that’s true.

But research and study of such issues – which is often forbidden – might show that no such effect exists.

And even if rigorous sex separation has some benefits, what are the costs?

Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte: Schwimmlektionen sind obligatorisch

Above: Aziz Osmanoglu, father of two daughters with Sehabat Kocabas, recently lost a decision in Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights over whether sending his daughters to a mixed gender swimming pool was a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights respecting religious practices.

European Court of Human Rights logo.svg

(The court decided that in the interest of integration that his daughters were required to take swimming lessons in mixed gender groups, but they were permitted to wear burkinis (full body swimsuits).

Above: Islamic modest swimwear, known as a urqini or burkini

Basel Canton, the Islamic family’s residence, will fine parents CHF 1,400 should they not send their children to swimming pools for religious reasons.)

Could it be that rigorous sex separation leads to psychological confusion and turmoil for men and women alike?

Could it lead to an inability to understand members of the opposite sex when one is finally allowed to interact with thwm?

Governments in much of the Muslim world have no satisfactory answers to those questions, because they often don’t bother to ask.

Conservative readings of Islamic texts…the strict traditionalist view…presents women as fundamentally passive creatures whom men must protect from the ravages of the world.

That belief is sometimes self-fulfilling.

In many Muslim communities, men insist that women are unable to face the big, wild world, all the while depriving women of the basic rights and skills they would need in order to do so.

Other traditionalists base their position on women on a different argument:

If women were mobile and independent and working with men who were not family members, then they might develop illicit romantic or even sexual relationships.

Of course, that is a possibility.

But such relationships also develop when a woman lives in a home where she is given little love and self-respect.

The traditionalist position is based, ultimately, on a desire to control women.

But women do not need to be controlled.

They need to be trusted and respected.

Treating women as inferior is not a religious duty.

It is a practice of patriarchal societies.

Within the Islamic tradition, there are many models of how Muslim women can live and be true to their faith.

There is no hard-and-fast rule requiring women to wear the hijab (the traditional veil that covers the head and hair) or a burqa or a niqab which cover far more.

Woman wearing a niqab with baby

Islam calls on women to be modest in appearance, but veiling is actually a pre-Islamic tradition.

The limits placed on women in conservative Muslim societies (mandatory veiling, rules limiting their mobility, restrictions on work and education), have their roots not in Islamic doctrine but rather in men’s fear that they will not be able to control women – and their fear that women, if left uncontrolled, will overtake men by being more disciplined, more focused, more hard-working.

The Prophet spoke about the ummah – the Muslim community – but the concept of the ummah has allowed self-appointed religious authorites to speak in the name of all Muslims without ever asking the rest of Muslims what they think.

The idea of an ummah also makes it easier for extremists to depict Islam – and all of the world’s Muslims – as standing in opposition to the West, or to capitalism or to the cause de jour.

In that conception of the Muslim world, the individual’s voice comes second to the group’s voice.

(Omar Saif Ghobash, “Advice for Young Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017)

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 4 March 2017

People have been trained over the years to put community ahead of individuality.

Dialogue and public debate about what it means to be an individual in the world would allow us to think more clearly about personal responsibility, ethical choices, and the respect and dignity that attaches to people rather than to families, tribes or sects.

Dialogue and public debate might lead us to stop insisting solely on our responsibilities to the group and start considering our responsibilities to ourselves and to others, whom we might come to see not as members of groups but rather as individuals regardless of our backgrounds.

We might begin to more deeply acknowledge the outrageous amount of people killed in the Muslim world in civil wars and in terrorist attacks carried out not by outsiders but by other Muslims.

We might memorialize these people not as a group but as individuals with names and faces and life stories – not to deify the dead but rather to recognize our responsibility to preserve their honour and dignity, and the honour and dignity of those who survive them.

The idea of the individual might help us improve how we discuss politics, economics and security.

If we start looking at ourselves as individuals first and foremost, perhaps we will build better societies.

Take hold of your fate and take hold of your life in the here and now, recognizing that there is no need to return to a glorious past in order to build a glorious future.

Our personal, individual interests might not align with those of the patriarch, the family, the tribe, the community or the state, but the embrace of each person’s individuality will lead to a rebalancing in the world in favour of more compassion, more understanding and more empathy.

If you accept the individual diversity of those inside your own faith, you are more likely to do the same for those of other faiths as well.

We can and should live in harmony with the diversity of humanity that exists outside of our faith, but we will struggle to do so until we truly embrace ourselves as individuals.

(Omar Saif Ghobash, “Advice for Young Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017)

It is said that we fear what we do not understand.

To conquer fear, we must first try and understand that which we are afraid of.

Only then will peace be unto you.

Just another day?

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 24 February 2017

Perhaps all of this is none of my business.

Perhaps I should just quietly go about my life ignoring the world around me.

"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

What does one man’s opinion matter, especially if that man lacks wealth, power or fame?

I believe that no man is an island, that each man is a note that contributes to the symphony of mankind.

I believe if a person acts according to the surety of conscience, resolving to do no harm but fight for the common good then that voice merits attention.

I live in one of the world´s most wealthiest countries, not by premeditated choice, but because I followed my heart and my wife when she sought better working conditions as a doctor than our homelands were offering.

But living in Switzerland, just as living in other countries prior to this (including my home and native land of Canada) did, often saddens me.

Flag of Switzerland

For it is the acquisition of wealth that seems to drive both institutions as well as individuals to act in ways detrimental to both our and others’ human spirit.

We have allowed ourselves over generations to let pieces of metal and paper dominate our decisions: how we spend our days, what we consider valuable, how we choose our leaders, how we interact, how we choose our life companions, the list seems endless.

Why do we believe that a beggar impoverished by circumstance is less worthy of respect than a banker who profits from the hard labour of others?

Why do people starve in the world when there is an overabundance of food available that if equally distributed could reach everyone?

Starved girl.jpg

Why do we send young people and civilians to their deaths in wars so we can protect rare resources in the name of ideals we preach but seldom practice outside our borders?

Why are farmers who put food on our tables less respected than supermodels who are mere walking clothes hangers?

Farmer, Nicaragua.jpg

We spend 80% of our adult lives working, yet so very few seem to enjoy the work they do, but we sacrifice our joy for what we believe to be the greater good: comfortable home lives.

But is that big screen TV enhancing our relationship with our spouses and children?

We reach our destinations faster, at the sacrifice of communion with our environment.

We have access to more information, but no time to assimilate it.

Why do we think ourselves superior to others and disregard what their common humanity has to teach us?

There is much I do not understand, much I have to learn.

I am a simple man of simple education, but I try to think and understand and learn about a world beset with problems.

I have been blessed by life in that I have been allowed to teach others to earn my daily bread, in the opportunities I have had to explore a small part of the world, in the range of information sources that time and place have granted me access.

I have a warm, dry place to lay my head each night and food to sustain my appetite.

I have been blessed by an imperfect beautiful and intelligent wife who feels compelled to remain with an even more imperfect, not so handsome or clever husband.

I have been blessed by friends who may not understand me but whose opinions and encouragement I value.

I have been blessed by sufficient health and the ability to think and feel and through electronics a forum to share my thoughts and ask questions.

I enjoy blessings that others in the world might not be enjoying.

With privilege comes responsibility.

This is a lesson many wealthy individuals forget.

This is a lesson many politicians forget.

I have a number of friends whose political views I do not share.

I respect their opinions and would gladly defend their rights to express those opinions.

In Europe and America many people have been shocked by the rise of right wing parties riding waves of populism they managed to create.

No one could have predicted the rise of France’s Marine LePen or America´s Donald Trump or the resilence of political parties like Germany’s Alternative Party, Italy’s Lega Nord, Belgium’s Vlaam Blok, Austria’s Freedom Party or Switzerland’s Swiss People’s Party.

Le Pen, Marine-9586.jpg

Lega Nord logo.pngVlaams Blok logo.pngLogo of Freedom Party of Austria.svgSVP UDC.svg

Brexit was unimaginable yet it happened.

Donald Trump becoming US President was even more inconceivable yet it has already been a month since his Inauguration.

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

They scream about the potential security threats of letting immigrants and refugees into their countries.

I sadly read of yesterday’s events in Lahore, Pakistan…

At least eight people have been killed and more than 30 others injured in an explosion that hit the Defence Y Block, which houses restaurants, offices and shops in a busy shopping area in Pakistan`s second-largest city.

Punjab police said it was a planted bomb, set on a timer or remotely detonated that caused the explosion.

The force of the explosion blew out the windows of surrounding buildings and cars, spraying them with shrapnel as people fled.

The Defence Y Block, part of the Defense Housing Authority, is controlled by the military with housing mainly given to people working for the armed forces.

Just one week prior to this, a suicide attack on a shrine in Pakistan killed at least 88 people and injured more than 250.

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Above: The Sufi Shrine of Lal Shahbaz in Qalandar Sehwan, Pakistan, attacked on 16 February 2017

Two days before this a suicide bomber attacked a rally in Lahore, killing over a dozen people.

Above: Charing Cross, across from the Punjab Assembly, where the protestors had assembled on 13 February 2017

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the deaths, causing terror and distress across the country.

Black Standard flag[1]

While the Western press have published the odd article about the attacks, the coverage goes no further…

There is no big front page reporting, no special emergency episodes of political podcasts, no trending #s, no Snapchat filters…

The Western media is so obsessed with what Donald Trump does and doesn´t say about potential security threats that they are ignoring the actual terror attacks going on.

Nationality, religion and race are the clear deciding factors in the media’s reporting of lives lost.

Western media and governments have a standard policy…

Terrorism isn’t worth mentioning unless it affects their own people and countries.

If there were the same number of terrorism victims in a similar attack in any Western country, the media and politicians would have respondly quickly and loudly.

The message is clear.

Western lives matter, but brown, black and non-Christian lives aren’t worthy of a story.

Pakistan`s terrorism problem can’t be ignored.

More than 80,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Flag of Pakistan

Above: The flag of Pakistan

A total of four million Muslims have been killed in the war against terror.

Until we realise that all lives matter, that all lives deserve the same respect, regardless of race, wealth or creed, we will never be able to eradicate the threat of extremism which hangs over us all.

What happens in Nigeria, Turkey or Pakistan is no less important than what happens in America, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany or Switzerland.

Until we begin to care about life beyond our borders, not just for financial gain but for humanitarian reasons, mankind will never make much progress.

NASA recently announced the discovery of several Earthlike planets beyond our solar system, but I hope I don´t live to see the day mankind visits these planets or encounters alien life.

If we are unable to empathise with our fellow humans beyond our borders, surely we are not ready to explore the galaxy.

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The sorrow of Batman

Istanbul, Turkey, 10 September 2016

In Istanbul, extraordinary experiences are found around every corner.

See caption

Here, dervishes whirl, müezzins call from minarets and people move between continents multiple times a day.

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Istanbul is home to millenia-old monuments and cutting edge art galleries – sometimes on the same block.

It is an utterly beguiling city full of sumptous palaces, domes and minarets, cobblestone streets and old wooden houses, squalid concrete apartment blocks and graceful Art Nouveau apartments, international fashion shops cheek and jowl next to bazaars and beggars, street vendors and stray dogs and wild cats, the beauty of the Bosphorus and the promising spell of the Orient.

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Vast labyrinths of narrow covered passageways and wide boulevards lined with superb fin-de-siecle architecture, the breathtaking interior of the Blue Mosque, the smells and sounds of the markets, tiny boats vying with huge tankers for a piece of the waterfront, street hustlers and people bum-to-bum striving to navigate alleyway and passage…

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This is the Istanbul I fell in love with, the Istanbul that remains with me as poignant as one´s memories of former intimates.

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Istanbul attracts millions of tourists every year but as well it draws into itself many who have come in search of work, of a new life, for a chance to thrive here where fortune is denied elsewhere.

It is my last day in Istanbul and my heart feels as sad as the inevitable farewell that must be said to a loved one leaving whose return is uncertain.

I am in the Sultanahmet district where tourists congregate and the locals bend over backwards to accommodate to their every whim no matter how unreasonable these whims might be.

This is a neighbourhood where one stands beneath magnificent domes or inside opulent palaces, where history is experienced by all one´s senses, where one can explore the watery damp depths of the Basilica Cistern then surrender to the steam of a hamam.

Wander through the produce markets, then join the locals in smoking nargiles, drinking tea and playing backgammon.

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I stand outside the Metropolis Hostel, on a quiet side street awaiting my shuttle bus to the airport and talk quietly to one of the co-owners of this very friendly, very comfortable, very clean, home away from home.

He is a Kurd and he talks about his life in Istanbul and what transpired to lead him to this city so very distant from his home in Batman in faraway southeastern Turkey.

A view of city center in Batman.

Above: City centre, Batman, Turkey

I have no political feelings towards either the Kurds or the Turks, except sadness that neither side sees a possibility of peace and cooperation with one another.

He speaks of battlefields where Kurd has fought ISIS warrior and Turk has bombed Kurd despite their common enemy.

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He speaks of devastation and death, of friends and family forever affected by loss and injury.

There are no words of comfort I can give him, for I am an ignorant foreigner, on a mini-visit to Istanbul before attending a friend´s wedding in Antalya the very next day.

He speaks of how the Syrian civil war has driven many Syrians into Turkey competing for the same jobs as those already resident here.

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Above: Map of the Syrian Civil War

He tells me of how bombings and attacks of ISIS upon Turkey and Kurd upon Turk and Turk upon Kurd have drastically reduced tourism in Istanbul to a third of what it once was.

I leave Istanbul and this Kurd with much of his pain unspoken and distract myself with the Antalya events that await me.

But it is nonetheless an uneasy departure filled with helplessness and sadness.

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 23 January 2017

I often wish I were a wiser man, more knowledgeable in the ways of politics and psychology.

I find myself uncertain of whether I should hate those who have caused  indescribable sorrow, for the Turks I have met both within and outside Turkey have always been friendly towards me, as have the few Kurds I have met as well.

I am rational enough to know that those who murder in the name of Allah are not true followers of Muhammed or Islam, so the gullible who have followed the infidels of ISIS have done so either out of ignorance or hope that those governments that failed them will be supplanted by a new order, albeit a dark order, that offers some sort of security through fear and intimidation.

"Allah" in Arabic calligraphy

I refuse to hate all the individuals caught up in forces unleashed by those that wield power without compassion, but instead find fault with those who claim to serve their fellow man yet use their fellow man for power, gain and profit.

Now, it is a fair question for any reader to ask:

Why should I care?

And why the history lessons?

We are all human beings, a few saints and monsters amongst us, but most of us are decent basic human beings in the pursuit of happiness.

I think we tend to forget this.

We are all so focused on what makes us different and in our fear use these differences to do unspeakable acts towards one another.

But I firmly believe that there is more that connects us than divides us.

We are bound by love and compassion, by conscience and will, by strength and weakness, by morality and mortality.

In looking at the complexities and tragedies of the ongoing saga of Turkey, or any other part of the world for that matter, I hope to understand the mindsets of both sides of this conflict and hope, in my own humble and naive fashion, to offer a possible idea that might help.

We are all interconnected and what happens in faraway places eventually find its way –  by sometimes subtle, sometimes powerful means – to our own doorsteps.

I explore history, because by trying to understand what leads people to where they are now, why they think and act the way they do, helps to comprehend who they are and, perhaps, as well, avoid some of the mistakes people make in this ongoing, neverending process of life and time.

In part 1 of this blog post I wrote of events in Kurdish / Turkish history – from ancient times until the Sixties – including the 9 January bombing in Izmir –  that compelled me to discuss the problems that plague a country I love.

Prior to the Sixties, the record shows again and again brutal violence towards and suppression of the Kurdish people by the Turks, responded to by armed Kurdish rebellion when it appeared that all attempts at negotiation were impossible:

“Thousands of Kurds, including women and children, were slain.

Others, mostly children, were thrown into the Euphrates, while thousands of others in less hostile areas, who had first been deprived of their cattle and other belongings, were deported to provinces in central Anatolia.

It is now stated that the Kurdish question no longer exists in Turkey.” (British Council, 1938)

In Part One, we examined the Kurdish perspective.

But what has led the Turkish people, especially its governments, to respond to the Kurds in the manner in which they have?

Why has President Recep Erdogan reacted to events both domestic and international in the manner that he has?

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To understand His Excellency, to understand the Turkish point-of-view, (not always the same) we need to travel back in time once more:

27 May 1960:

A coup d’ état is staged by a group of 38 young Turkish military officers.

It is a time of socio-political turmoil and economic hardship as US aid from the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan is running out.

Prime Minister Adnan Menderes plans a visit to Moscow in the hope of establishing alternative lines of credit.

Above: Adnan Menderes (1899 – 1961), 9th Prime Minister of Turkey (1950 – 1960)

Colonel Alparslan Türkes orchestrates the plot and declares the coup over radio to announce “the end of one period in Turkish history and usher in a new one.”

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Above: Alparslan Turkes (1917 – 1997)

The Great Turkish Nation:

Starting at 3 am on 27 May, the Turkish armed forces have taken over administration throughout the entire country.

This operation, thanks to the close cooperation of all our citizens and security forces, has succeeded without loss of life.

Until further notice, a curfew has been imposed, exmept only to members of the armed forces.

We request our citizens to facilitate the duty of our armed forces and assist in reestablishing the nationally desired democratic regime.”

In a press conference held on the following day, General Cemal Gürsel emphasizes that the “purpose and the aim of the coup is to bring the country with all speed to a fair, clean and solid democracy.”

Above: Cemal Gursel (1895 – 1966), 4th President of Turkey (1960 – 1966)

I want to transfer power and the administration of the nation to the free choice of the people.”

The coup removes a democratically elected government while expressing the intent to install a democratically elected government.

235 generals and more than 3,000 commissioned officers are forced to retire.

More than 500 judges and 1,400 university faculty members lose their jobs.

The chief of the General Staff, the President, the Prime Minister and other members of the administration are arrested.

General Gürsel is appointed provisional head of state, Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense.

Minister of the Interior Namik Gedik commits suicide while he is detained in the Turkish Military Academy.

President Celal Bayar, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and several other members of the administration are put on trial before a court appointed by the ruling junta on the island of Yassuda in the Sea of Marmara.

The politicians are charged with high treason, misuse of public funds and abrogation of the Turkish constitution.

16 September 1961:

Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatin Rüstü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan are executed on Imrali Island.

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(Imrali Island Prison is known as the place where American Billy Hayes was incarcerated later telling his story in Midnight Express and where PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been imprisoned since 1999.)

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Above: Poster of the film adaptation (1978)

A month later, administrative authority is returned to civilians.

In the first free election after the coup, Süleyman Demirel is elected in 1965.

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Above: Suleyman Demirel (1924 – 2015), 9th President of Turkey (1993 – 2000)

As the 1960s wear on, violence and instability plague Turkey.

Economic recession sparks a wave of social unrest marked by student demonstrations, labour strikes and political assassinations.

On the left, worker and student movements are formed.

On the right, Islamist and militant nationalist groups counter them.

The Revolutionary Youth Federation of Turkey (DEV-GENC) is founded in 1965 and it will inspire various other organisations, including Devrimci Yol, the Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Party of Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers´ Party.

DEV-GENC members set US Ambassador Robert Komer´s car on fire in 1969 while he is visiting an Ankara campus, participate in the protests against the US 6th Fleet anchoring in Turkey from June 1967 to February 1969, and also play an active role in the workers´ actions on 15 – 16 June 1970.

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Above: Robert Komer (1922 – 2000) (left) in meeting with US President Lyndon Johnson

CIA agent Aldrich Ames is able to unveil the identity of a large number of members.

Above: Aldrich Ames (b. 1941), CIA – KGB double agent, presently incarcerated in Allenwood Penitentiary

The Grey Wolves, a Turkish nationalist paramilitary youth organisation, often described by its critics as an ultra-nationalist or neo-fascist death squad, are responsible for matching and surpassing the left´s violent activities, engaging in urban guerilla warfare with left-wing activists and militants.

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On the political front, Prime Minister Demirel´s center-right Justice Party government is experiencing trouble.

Various factions within the Party defect to form groups of their own, gradually reducing the Party´s parliamentary majority and bringing the legislative process to a halt.

By January 1971, Turkey is in a state of chaos.

Universities have ceased to function.

Students rob banks and kidnap US servicemen and attack American targets.

University professors critical of the government have their homes bombed by neo-fascist militants.

Factories are on strike and many workdays are lost.

The Islamist movement becomes more aggressive and openly rejects Atatürk and Kemalism, thus infuriating the armed forces.

The government, weakened by defections, seems paralysed, powerless to curb campus and street violence and unable to pass any serious legislation on social and financial reform.

12 March 1971:

The Chief of the General Staff Memduh Tagmac hands the Prime Minister a Memorandum – an ultimatum by the armed forces – demanding “the formation, within the context of democratic principles, of a strong and credible government, which will neutralise the current anarchical situation and which, inspired by Atatürk´s views, will implement the reformist laws envisaged by the constitution”, putting an end to the “anarchy, fratricidal strife, and social and economic unrest.”

If the demands are not met, the army would “exercise its constitutional duty” and take over power itself.

Demeril resigns after a three-hour meeting with his cabinet.

The coup doesn´t surprise most Turks, but what direction will the coup take the country?

Who is in charge?

The “restoration of law and order” is given priority.

The left is to be suppressed in an attempt to curb trade union militancy and the demands for higher wages and better working conditions.

The public prosecutor opens a case against the Workers’ Party of Turkey for carrying out Communist propaganda and supporting Kurdish separatism.

All youth organisations affliated with DEV-GENC are to be closed, as they are blamed for the left-wing youth violence and university and urban unrest plaguing the country.

Police searches in offices of teachers’ unions and university clubs are carried out.

Such actions encourage the right who target provincial teachers and Workers’ Party supporters.

The commanders who have seized power are reluctant to exercise it directly, so the regime rests on an unstable balance of power between civilian politicians and the military.

It is neither a normal elected government nor an outright military dictatorship which can entirely ignore parliamentary opposition.

In April, a new wave of terror begins, carried out by the Turkish People’s Liberation Army, in the form of kidnappings and bank robberies.

27 April 1971:

Martial law is declared in 11 of Turkey´s 67 provinces, especially in major urban areas and Kurdish regions.

Youth organisations are banned, union meetings are prohibited, leftists publications are forbidden, and strikes are declared illegal.

After the Israeli consul is abducted on 17 May, hundreds of students, young academics, writers, trade unionists and Workers’ Party activists as well as people with liberal-progressive sympathies are detained and tortured.

The consul is shot four days later.

For the next two years, repression continues, with martial law renewed every two months.

Constitutional reforms repeal the essential liberal fragments of the constitution.

The National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) uses the Ziverbey Villa as a torture centre, employing physical and psychological coercion.

Interrogations, directed by CIA-trained specialists, result in hundreds of deaths or permanent injuries.

Among their victims is journalist Ugur Mumcu, arrested shortly after the coup, later writes that his torturers informed him that not even the President could touch them.

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Above: Journalist Ugur Mumcu (1942 – 1993), assassinated 24 January 1993 in a car bomb outside his Ankara home (Cumhuriyet, 24 January 2003)

By the summer of 1973, the military-backed regime has achieved most of its political aims.

The constitution has been amended so as to strengthen the state against civil society.

Special courts are in place to deal with all forms of dissent quickly and ruthlessly.

Universities, their autonomy ended, have been made to curb the radicalism of students and faculty.

Radio, TV and newspapers are curtailed.

The National Security Council is much more powerful.

In October 1973 Bülent Ecevit wins the election and the problems that plagued the pre-coup government return.

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Above: Mustafa Bulent Ecevit (1925 – 2006), 16th Prime Minister of Turkey (1974, 1977, 1978 – 1979, 1999 – 2002)

As the 1970s progress, the economy deteriorates, violence by the Grey Wolves escalates and intensifies, and left-wing groups as well commit acts aimed at causing chaos and demoralisation.

In 1975 Suleyman Demeril succeeds Ecevit as Prime Minister.

Demeril´s Justice Party forms a coalition with the Nationalist Front, the Islamist National Salvation Party and the Nationalist Movement Party.

There is no clear winner in the elections of 1977.

Demeril continues the coalition.

Ecevit returns to power in 1978, but Demeril regains it the following year.

By the end of the Seventies, Turkey is in turmoil, with unsolved economic and social problems, facing strike actions and political paralysis.

Since 1969, the proportional representational system has made it difficult to find any parliamentary majority.

Politicians are unable to combat the growing violence in the country.

The overall death toll of the Seventies is estimated at 5,000, with nearly ten assassinations per day.

16 March 1977, Istanbul

The University of Istanbul is attacked with a bomb and gunfire.

7 die, 41 injured.

1 May 1977, Istanbul

Labour Day has been celebrated in Istanbul since 1912.

500,000 people gather on Taksim Square.

Shots are heard coming from the building of the water supply company Sular Idaresi and the Marmara Hotel (in 1977, the tallest building in Istanbul).

Security forces intervene with armoured vehicles making much noise with their sirens and explosives.

They hose the crowd with pressurized water.

Many casualities are caused by the panic that this intervention creates.

42 people killed, 220 injured, most crushed.

None of the perpetrators are caught or brought to justice.

The CIA is suspected of involvement.

9 October 1978, Ankara

7 university students, members of the Turkish Workers’ Party, are assassinated by ultra-nationalists.

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27 November 1978, Diyarbakir

The left-wing organisation is mostly made up of students led by Abdullah Ocalan in Ankara and focused on helping the large oppressed Kurdish population in southeast Turkey.

The violence of the times, especially the attacks on the University of Istanbul, the Taksim Square massacre and the assassinations in Ankara, compel the group, meeting here inside a teahouse, to adopt the name Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a Marxist ideology to counter violence with violence.

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19 – 26 December 1978, Kahramanmaras

Kahramanmaras is a city in the Mediterranean region of southern Turkey close to the Syrian border.

Above: The minaret of the Grand Mosque of Kahramanmaras

Kahramanmaras lies on a plain at the foot of Ahir Mountain and is best known for its production of salep (a flour made from dried orchids) and its distinctive ice cream.

It all starts with a noise bomb thrown into a cinema popular with right-wingers.

Rumours spread that left-wingers had thrown the bomb.

So, the next day a bomb is thrown into a coffee shop frequently visited by left-wingers.

The following evening known left-winger teachers Haci Colak and Mustafa Yuzbasioglu are killed on their way home.

While a crowd of over 5,000 people prepares for Colak’s and Yuzbasioglu’s funeral, right-wing groups stir up emotions saying that the Communists are going to bomb the mosque and massacre many Muslims.

On 23 December, things turn ugly.

Crowds storm the quarters where left-wingers live, destroying houses and shops.

The offices of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, the Teachers’ Association of Turkey, the Association of Police Officers and the Republican People’s Party are destroyed.

Over 100 people are killed and more than 200 houses and 100 shops destroyed.

“They started in the morning, burning all the houses, and continued into the afternoon.

A child was burned in a boiler.

They sacked everything.

We were in the water in the cellar, above us were wooden boards.

The boards were burning and falling on top of us.

My house was reduced to ashes.

We were with 8 people in the cellar.

They did not see us and left.” (Meryem Polat, one of the victims)

Martial law was declared across Turkey the following day.

Court cases, opened at military courts, lasted until 1991.

A total of 804 defendants, mostly right-wingers, were put on trial.

The courts passed 29 death penalties and sentenced 328 people to prison.

11 September 1979

General Kenan Evren orders a hand-written report on whether a coup is in order or the government merely needs a stern warning.

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Above: Kenan Evren (1917 – 2015), 7th President of Turkey (1980 – 1989)

21 December 1979

The War Academy generals convene to decide a course of action.

The pretext for a coup is to put to an end the social conflicts plaguing the country as well as the political instability.

12 September 1980

The Turkish economy is on the verge of collapse with triple digit inflation, large scale unemployment and a chronic foreign trade deficit.

The National Security Council, headed by Evren, declares a coup d’etat, extending martial law throughout the country, abolishing the government and Parliament, suspending the Constitution and banning all political parties and trade unions.

The Council invokes the Kemalist tradition of state secularism and in national unity, presenting themselves as opposed to communism, facism, separatism and religious sectarianism.

The Council aims to unite Turkey with the global economy and give companies the ability to market products and services worldwide.

“A feeling of hope is evident among international bankers that Turkey’s military coup may have opened the way to greater political stability as an essential prerequisite for the revitalisation of the Turkish economy.” (International Banking Review, October 1980)

During 1980 – 1983, the foreign exchange rate was allowed to float freely, foreign investment encouraged, land reform projects promoted, export vigourously driven and wages frozen.

The Council rounded up members of both the right and left for trial by military tribunals.

  • 650,000 people were under arrest.
  • 1,683,000 people were blacklisted.
  • 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 lawsuits.
  • 7,000 people were recommended for the death penalty.
  • 517 persons were sentenced to death.
  • 50 of those given the death penalty were executed (26 political prisoners, 23 criminal offenders and 1 ASALA militant).
  • The files of 259 people, which had been recommended for the death penalty, were sent to the National Assembly.
  • 71,000 people were tried by articles 141, 142 and 163 of Turkish Penal Code.
  • 98,404 people were tried on charges of being members of a leftist, a rightist, a nationalist, a conservative, etc. organization.
  • 388,000 people were denied a passport.
  • 30,000 people were dismissed from their firms because they were suspects.
  • 14,000 people had their citizenship revoked.
  • 30,000 people went abroad as political refugees.
  • 300 people died in a suspicious manner.
  • 171 people died by reason of torture.
  • 937 films were banned because they were found objectionable.
  • 23,677 associations had their activities stopped.
  • 3,854 teachers, 120 lecturers and 47 judges were dismissed.
  • 400 journalists were recommended a total of 4,000 years imprisonment.
  • Journalists were sentenced 3,315 years and 6 months imprisonment.
  • 31 journalists went to jail.
  • 300 journalists were attacked.
  • 3 journalists were shot dead.
  • 300 days in which newspapers were not published.
  • 13 major newspapers brought to trial
  • 39 tonnes of newspapers and magazines destroyed
  • 299 people lost their lives in prison.

The Council begins a program of forced assimilation of its Kurdish population.

The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan” or “Kurdish” are officially banned.

The Kurdish language is prohibited in both public and private life.

People who speak, publish or sing in Kurdish are arrested and imprisoned.

(Even now in 2017, Kurds are still not allowed to get a primary education in their mother tongue and still don´t have a right to self-determination.

Above: Kurdish boys in Diyarbakir

Even now, there is ongoing discrimination against Kurds in Turkish society.)

The Council pushes the PKK to another stage…

PKK members have been executed, imprisoned and forced to flee to Syria (including Abdullah Ocalan).

10 November 1980, Strasbourg, France

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Above: Strasbourg Cathedral

The Turkish Consulate is bombed causing significant material damage but no injuries.

In a telephone call to the office of Agence France Presse, a spokesman said the blast was a joint operation and marked the start of a “fruitful collaboration” between the ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) and the PKK.

(Armenia has been officially independent since 1991.)

After the Council’s approval of the new Turkish Constitution in June 1982, General Evren organizes nationwide general elections, to be held on 6 November 1983.

This results in the one-party government of Turgut Ozal’s Motherland Party.

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Above: Turgat Özal (1927 – 1993), 8th President of Turkey (1989 – 1993)

The Özal government empowers the police force with intelligence capabilites.

Beginning in 1984, the PKK initiates a guerilla offensive with a series of attacks on Turkish military and police targets.

Since 1984, 37,000 people have been killed.

The three coups of 1960, 1971 and 1980 revolutionized modern Turkey.

So, His Excellency Recep Erdogan´s instinct to (over)react to the 2016 attempted coup becomes somewhat understandable, for soldiers can overthrow governments.

(More about this later…)

Yesterday, Turkey´s Parliament in Ankara adopted a package of 18 amendments placing all executive powers in His Excellency’s hands.

His Excellency believes he has learned from these coups and his administration has revved up nationalist rheotric to justify a mounting crackdown against the Kurds, socialists and the press.

I believe His Excellency is mistaken.

Violence creates violence.

Rebellion incites suppression and suppression incites rebellion.

Revolution encourages revolution.

There is much that I see about Turkey that saddens me.

Like anyone not resident in Turkey I am limited to what I receive second-hand so I try to find as many sources of information as I can and hope through the complexity to find and share as unbiased and complete a picture as I can.

I am left with a few questions I will try and address in the third part of this essay on Turkey and the Kurds:

Is change possible without bloodshed?

How can change without bloodshed be realisable?

Surprisingly, hope will begin with the Özal government…

(To be continued…)

Flag of Turkey

Sources: The Economist, 21 – 27 January 2017 / Wikipedia / Andrew Finkel, Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know

 

 

 

 

 

The sons of Karbala

St. Gallen, Switzerland, 9 January 2017

“Turkey seems to be falling to pieces, the fall will be a great misfortune.

It is very important that England and Russia should come to a perfectly good understanding… and that neither should take any decisive step of which the other is not apprized.” 

“We have a sick man on our hands, a man gravely ill, it will be a great misfortune if one of these days he slips through our hands, especially before the necessary arrangements are made.” 

(Russian Czar Nicholas I, Interview, 9 January 1853)

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Above: Russian Czar Nicholas I (1796 – 1855)

This handsome devil below is my good friend and Starbucks co-worker, Volkan – a talented musician, a good husband and father and a credit to his employer and his homeland of Turkey.

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I asked Volkan once:

“Do you still love your homeland?”

I have never forgotten his answer.

“If you had a child who became sick, would you stop loving it?”

How must it be to simultaneously miss your home and the people you left behind, while feeling glad you are removed from the problems your homeland is in the middle of?

Volkan is a good man.

Volkan is saddened when he reads the news.

 

An ISIS disciple kills 39 New Year´s revelers at an Istanbul nightclub.

A gunman with a police badge assassinates Russia´s ambassador at an Ankara reception.

Kurdish separatist bombers kill 14 soldiers on a bus in central Turkey and dozens of police at an Istanbul soccer match.

Those assaults were just in the last few weeks, which made a car bombing on Thursday in the city of Izmir, where at least two people were killed, seem relatively minor.

 

Izmir, Turkey, 5 January 2017

From top to bottom, left to right: Konak in İzmir, Historical Elevator in Karataş, Pasaport Wharf in İzmir, Gündoğdu Square, İzmir Clock Tower in Konak Square, A view of the city from Historical Elevator, Karşıyaka.

Izmir is a big place, far to the west of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara. (Population: nearly 3 million).

Biblical scholars and fans of Indiana Jones might know Izmir better by its former Greek name, Smyrna.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade A.jpg

Izmir has almost 4,000 years of recorded urban history, and it has seen conquerors come and conquerors go, empires rise and fall: the Hittite Empire, the Lydian Empire, the Persian Empire, the empire of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Selcuks, the Ottomans and finally modern Turkey.

It has seen conquerors come and conquerors go and has survived earthquakes, plagues and great fires.

Above: The Great Fire of Smyrna, 14 September 1922

Terrorist attacks, though unpleasant, these too Izmir has survived and will survive.

Suspected Kurdish militants clashed with police and detonated a car bomb in western Turkey on Thursday after their vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint, killing a police officer and a court employee, officials said.

The explosion and gunfire outside the main courthouse in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, highlighted the country’s deteriorating security after a gunman killed 39 people in a New Year’s Day mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub.

“Based on the preparation, the weapons, the bombs and ammunition seized, it is understood that a big atrocity was being planned,” Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told reporters.

The local governor said the arms included Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Izmir police shot dead two of the attackers and were hunting a third, a police source and the state-run Anadolu agency said.

“Our heroic police officer martyred in this attack, Fethi Sekin, prevented a much bigger disaster happening, sacrificing his own life without a thought for it,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement, condemning the “heinous” attack.

Two people, believed to have sold the vehicle used in the attack to the assailants, were subsequently detained, security sources said.

CCTV footage obtained by Reuters showed a passerby fleeing as the vehicle exploded in a fire ball.

Initial findings suggested that Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were behind the attack, Izmir governor Erol Ayyildiz said.

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Dozens of people rushed to the scene of the blast and chanted “God damn the PKK” and other slogans against the militant group.

Volkan told me that his Turkish relatives in Izmir were very close to where the bomb exploded.

A helicopter was seen flying overhead.

Ayyildiz said a second vehicle had been detonated in a controlled explosion.

Anadolu said police suspected the attackers had planned to escape in this vehicle.

NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and is also battling an insurgency by the PKK in the largely Kurdish southeast.

It regularly bombs PKK camps in northern Iraq and its military operations in Syria also aim to stop Kurdish militias it sees as an extension of the PKK from gaining territory there.

“Turkey will be instrumental in its region. These (attacks) will never prevent us from being present in areas like Iraq and Syria, which produce terrorists like viruses,” Kaynak said.

Ayyildiz said the clash outside Izmir’s main Bayrakli courthouse erupted after police officers tried to stop a vehicle at a checkpoint and that the attackers detonated the car bomb while trying to escape.

The PKK – deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union – and its affiliates have been carrying out increasingly deadly attacks over the past year and a half, ever further from the largely Kurdish southeast, where they have fought an insurgency for more than three decades.

A PKK offshoot claimed responsibility for twin bombings that killed 44 people, most of them police officers, and wounded more than 150 outside an Istanbul soccer stadium on 10 December.

A car bomb a week later killed 13 soldiers and wounded 56 when it tore through a bus carrying off-duty military personnel in the central city of Kayseri, in an attack President Tayyip Erdogan also blamed on Kurdish militants.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Izmir, a liberal coastal city which had largely escaped the violence that has plagued Istanbul and the capital Ankara in recent months.

Ayyildiz said the attackers were carrying two automatic rifles, rocket launchers and eight hand grenades.

The attack occurred near a courthouse in Izmir’s Bayrakli district, close to an entrance used by judges, prosecutors and other employees.

Ayyildiz said “six or seven” people were also wounded in the attack, adding that police vigilance had foiled a possible more serious attack.

Police detained 20 suspected Islamic State militants thought to be of Central Asian and North African origin in Izmir on Wednesday, in raids Turkish media said were linked to the Istanbul nightclub attack.

Now, here is where things begin to get confusing and muddled…

Where life gets…complicated.

 

The Kurds are estimated to number, worldwide, around 32 million with the majority living in West Asia.

Turkey´s Kurdish minority is estimated at more than 15 million people.

Sparsely populated southeastern Anatolia is home to perhaps eight million Kurds, while seven million more live elsewhere in the country, largely integrated into mainstream Turkish society.

Istanbul is the largest Kurdish city in the world, in the way that New York City is home to the largest number of Jews.

The majority of Turkish Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

The city of Diyarbakir serves as the unofficial capital of the Kurdish region.

Top left: Ali Pasha Mosque, Top right: Nebi Mosque, 2nd: Seyrangeha Park, 3rd left: Dört Ayakli Minare Mosque, 3rd upper right: Deriyê Çiyê, 3rd lower right: On Gözlü Bridge (or Silvan Bridge), over Tigris River, Bottom left: Diyarbakır City Wall, Bottom right: Gazi Köşkü (Veterans Pavilion)

There has been over centuries a diaspora of Kurdish communities to the cities of western Europe and in coastal Turkish cities like Adana and Izmir.

In western Europe, Germany has the greatest number of Kurdish people: 800,000.

Britain has 50,000, Switzerland has 35,000, the US – over 15,000, Canada – over 12,000.

The Kurds are an ancient people, mentioned as far back as 4,000 BC when they are mentioned on Sumerian clay tablets.

Many Kurds consider themselves descended from the Medes, an ancient Iranian people and some even use a calendar dating from 612 BC when the Assyrian capital of Nineveh was conquered by the Medes.

This claim is reflected in the words of the Kurdish “national” anthem:

“We are the children of the Medes and Kai Khosrow.”

(Kai Khosrow was a legendary king of the Kayanian dynasty and a character in the Persina epic book Shahnameh.

The Cup of Kai Khosrow was a cup of prophecy and divination which was said to be filled with the Elixir of Immortality, and some suggest might be the origin of the ideas we have of crystal balls, reading tea leaves, the Fountain of Youth and the Holy Grail.

The Kayanians were the heroes of the Avesta – the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism.

Atar (fire)

Zoroastrianism was already one of the world´s oldest religions when it was first recorded and is said to have strongly influenced Judaism, gnosticisim (monks and hermits), Christianity and Islam with the concepts of a Messiah, Heaven, Hell, free will and the universal struggle between Good and Evil.)

Persian King Ardashir I the Unifier (180 – 242), was depicted as having battled the Kurds and their leader Madig.

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In a letter Ardashir I received from his foe Ardavan V, Ardashir himself is referred to being a Kurd himself:

“You´ve bitten off more than you can chew and you have brought death to yourself.

O son of a Kurd, raised in the tents of the Kurds, who gave you permission to put a crown on your head?”

In 360, Sassanid King Shapur II marched into the Roman province Zabdicene to conquer its chief city of Bezabde (present day Cizre) to find the city heavily fortified and guarded by three Roman legions and a large body of Kurdish warriors.

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In 639, Sassanian General Hormuzan battled Islamic invaders in Khuzestan and called upon the Kurds to aid him in battle.

Hormuzan lost and the Kurds were brought under Islamic rule.

Many dynasties would rise and fall and the Kurds were either used in great military campaigns throughout recorded history or they would be considered a problem by those who had conquered Kurdish territory.

Under the leadership of Saladin, Kurds would be instrumental in the recapture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin (4 July 1187).

Above: Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (or Saladin)

Kurds would revolt several times against their rulers and rulers would put down these rebellions and punish the Kurds by forcing them to move away from their territories, be forcibly and massively deported and enslaved.

The Ottoman Empire had historically and successfully inteegrated (but not assimilated) the Kurds by repressing Kurdish independence movements.

The Russo-Turkish War (1877 – 1878) devastated Kurdish territory and left therein a political vacuum.

Sheik Ubeydullah, a powerful landowner, filled the role and demanded recognition from the Ottoman Emire for an independent Kurdish state.

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“The Kurdish nation, consisting of more than 500,000 families is a people apart.

Their religion is different and their laws and customs distinct.

We are a nation apart.

We want our affairs to be in our hands, so that…we may be strong and independent and have privileges like other nations.

This is our objective.

Otherwise, the whole of Kurdistan will take matters into their own hands as they are unable to put up with these continual evil deeds and the oppression, which they suffer at the hands of the Persian and Ottoman governments.”

Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid responded with a campaign of integration by co-opting prominent Kurdish opponents with offers of prestigious positions in his government.

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Above: Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842 – 1918)

This strategy appears to have worked given the loyalty displayed by the Kurdish Hamidiye regiments during World War I.

The Young Turks, a political reform movement that consisted of Ottoman exiles, students, civil servants and army officers, favoured the replacement of the Ottoman Empire´s absolute monarchy with a constitutional government and led a rebellion against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908.

With this revolution, the Young Turks helped to establish an era of multi-party democracy for the first time in Turkey´s history.

After 1908, the Young Turks’ political party, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) began a series of modernizing military and political reforms across the Ottoman Empire.

By 1913, the CUP-led government was headed by Interior Minister and Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, War Minister Enver Pasha and Naval Minister Djemal Pasha.

The “Three Pashas” exercised absolute control over the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1918, bringing the country closer to Germany, signing the Ottoman-German Alliance to enter the Empire into World War I on the side of the Central Powers and carrying out the Armenian Genocide (1914 – 1917).

Jakob Künzler, of Hundwil, Appenzell, Switzerland, the head of a missionary hospital in Urfa, documented the large scale ethnic cleansing of both Armenians and Kurds by the Young Turks.

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Above: Jakob Künzler (8 March 1871 – 15 January 1949)

The Kurds were perceived to be subversive elements that would take the Russian side in the War.

The Young Turks embarked on a large scale deportation of Kurds, aiming to weaken the political influence of the Kurds by deporting them from their ancestral lands and dispersing them in small pockets of exiled communities.

By the end of World War I, up to 700,000 Kurds had been forcibly deported and almost half of the displaced perished.

On 10 August 1920, in the exhibition room of a porcelain factory in Sevres, France, the Manufacture nationale de Sevres, four representatives of the Ottoman Empire and representatives of the Allied Powers (the UK, France and Italy) met to discuss the partition of the Ottoman Empire.

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Much to the world´s shock the Ottoman Empire was allowed to continue to exist but with much of its territory assigned to various Allied powers.

This Treaty would ultimately lead to the creation of Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Armenia.

It would also lead to two wars: the Greek – Turkish War (1919 – 1922) and the Turkish War of Independence (1919 – 1923).

Above: The Turkish Army enters Izmir (9 September 1922).

Izmir is both the beginning and end location of the Turkish War of Independence.

On 15 May 1919, armed Turkish civilians first resisted the occupation of Turkey by the Allies following the Treaty of Sevres.

The end of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the nation of Turkey, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, made the Kurdish people feel threatened, as radical secularisation which the strongly Muslim Kurds abhorred and the centralisation of authority and rampant Turkish nationalism marginalised Kurdish autonomy.

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Above: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 1938)

Some Kurdish groups sought self-determination and the confirmation of Kurdish autonomy as established in the Treaty of Sevres, but Kemal Atatürk prevented such a result.

On 6 March 1921, 6,000 members of the Kocgiri tribe rebelled.

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The commander of the Central Army Nureddin Pasha said:

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Above: Nureddin Pasha (1873 – 1932)

“In Turkey, we cleaned up people who speak Armenian.

I´m going to clean up people who speak Kurdish.”

The brutality of his repression made the National Assembly decide to put Pasha on trial.

Although Pasha was dismissed from his position and recalled to Ankara, Atatürk intervened and prevented a trial.

In 1925 Sheikh Said and a group of former Ottoman soldiers known as the Hamidiye, led the Kurdish groups the Zaza and the Kurmanj in rebellion against the Turkish state.

Above: Sheikh Said (bottom right)

Various elements of Turkish society were (and still are) unhappy that Atatürk had abolished the Islamic Caliphate system.

Apart from inevitable Kurdish cultural demands and complaints of Turkish maltreatment, the rebels were also afraid of imminent mass deportations.

They were also annoyed that the name “Kurdistan” did not appear on maps, at restrictions on the Kurdish language and education, and they objected to the Turks’ economic exploitation of Kurdish areas at the expense of the Kurds.

“Certain among you have taken as a pretext for revolt the governmental administration.

Some others have invoked the defence of the Caliphate.” (Military tribunal President, 28 June 1925)

Sheikh Said appealed to all Muslims of Turkey to join in the rebellion.

15,000 men did.

In the night / early morning of 6 – 7 March the forces of Sheikh Said laid siege to the city of Diyarbakir with a force of 10,000 men, attacking the city at all four of its gates simultaneously.

All of the rebel attacks were repelled by the Turkish garrison’s use of machine gunfire and mortar grenades.

When the rebels retreated, the area around the city was full of dead bodies.

By the end of March, most of the major battles of the Sheikh Said rebellion were over as the Turkish authorities crushed the rebellion with continual aerial bombardments and a massive concentration of forces.

Sheikh Said was captured and executed by hanging.

In the east of Turkey in Agri Province, during a wave of rebellion among Kurds led by General Ihsan Nuri Pasha, a self-proclaimed Kurdish state arose in 1927 called the Republic of Ararat and Kurdava, a village near Mount Ararat, was designated as its capital.

Ararat made appeals to the Great Powers and the League of Nations and sent messages for assistance from Kurds in Iraq and Syria, but to no avail.

On 12 July 1930 in the Zilan valley located to the north of the town of Ercis in Van Province, 1,500 armed Turkish soldiers destroyed 220 Kurdish villages and massacred 5,000 women, children and elderly Kurds.

Zilanmassacre.jpg

Above: Headline of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, 13 July 1930:

“Cleaning started, the ones at Zilan valley were completely annihilated. 

None of them survived.

Operations at Ararat are continuing.”

By the summer of 1930, the Turkish Air Force was bombing Kurdish positions, demoralising the Kurds and leading to their surrender and Turkey resuming control over the territory.

Mount Ararat and the Araratian plain (cropped).jpg

Most of the former Ottoman Empire’s eastern regions had been administered by feudal lords, tribal chieftains and dignitaries, but as the Republic of Turkey grew in power and confidence the Dersim region tribes objected to losing their authority and refused to pay taxes.

Complaints kept coming from the governors, so by 1926 the Atatürk government considered it necessary to use force against the people of Dersim.

Dersim had a reputation for being rebellious, having been the scene of 11 separate periods of armed conflict over the previous 40 years.

Ankara began to pass laws to “Turkify” the eastern provinces:

1934: Law on Resettlement: forced relocation of people within the country, to promote cultural homogeneity

1935: The Tunceli Law renaming Dersim “Tunceli”

On 1 November 1936, during a speech in Parliament, Atatürk acknowledged the situation in Dersim as Turkey´s most important internal problem.

The Turkish government built military observation posts in the centres of Kurdish districts.

Following public meetings in January 1937, a letter of protest against the Tunceli Law was written to be sent to the local governor.

“The government has tried to assimilate the Kurdish people for years, oppressing them, banning publications in Kurdish, persecuting those who speak Kurdish, forcibly deporting people from fertile parts of Kurdistan for uncultivated areas of Anatolia where many have perished.

The prisons are full of non-combatants, intellectuals are shot, hanged or exiled to remote places.

Three million Kurds demand to live in freedom and peace in their own country.” (Nuri Desimi)

The emissaries of the letter were arrested and executed.

In response, a group of local Kurds ambushed a police convoy in May.

The Dersim Rebellion had begun.

“The rebellion was clearly caused by provocation.

It caused the most violent tortures that were ever seen in a rebellion in the Republican years.

Those that didn´t take part in the rebellion and the families of the rebels were also tortured.” (Huseyin Aygun, Dersim 1938 and Obligatory Settlement)

In September 1937, a Kurdish leader Seyit Riza came to the government building of Erzincan Province for peace talks and was immediately arrested.

Riza was tried and sentenced after a show trial.

Riza and his companions were not informed of their rights nor the details of their case.

No lawyer was provided for them.

They were not able to understand the language of the trial in Turkish since they spoke only Kurdish.

No interpreter was provided.

Seyit Riza was almost 78 years old, making it impossible to hang him.

The court accepted he was only 54.

 

Riza was transferred to the headquarters of the General Inspectorate at Elazig.

Riza did not understand the meaning of the judgement until he saw the gallows.

“You will hang me.”, he said.

Then he turned to me and asked:

“Did you come from Ankara to hang me?”

We exchanged glances.

It was the first time I faced a man who was going to be hanged.

He flashed a smile at me.

The prosecutor asked whether he wanted to pray.

He didn´t want it.

We asked his last words.

“I have 40 liras and a watch.

You will give them to my son.”

We brought him to the square.

It was cold and there was nobody around.

However, Seyit Riza addressed the silence and emptiness as if the square was full of people.

“We are the sons of Karbala. (the land which will cause many agonies (karb) and afflictions (balā) )

We are blameless.

It is shame.

It is cruel.

It is murder.”

I had goose bumps.

This old man swept to the gallows, strung the rope around his own neck, kicked the chair and executed himself.” (Minister of Foreign Affairs Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil)

Six of his companions would also hang that evening.

 

Turkish planes flew numerous sorties against the Dersim rebels, bombing the district with poisonous gas.

Over 70,000 Kurdish civilians were killed by the Turkish Army and over 11,000 taken into exile.

Many tribesmen were shot dead after surrendering.

Women and children were locked into haysheds which were then set on fire.

Around 3,000 Kurds were forcibly deported from Dersim.

Southeast Anatolia was put under martial law.

In addition to more destruction of villages and massive deportations, the Turkish government encouraged Albanians and Assyrians to settle in Kurdish areas to change the ethnic composition of the region.

People were put in barns and caves and burned alive.

Forests were surrounded and set ablaze to exterminate those who had taken refuge there.

Many Kurdish females committed collective suicide and threw themselves into rivers.

More than 1.5 million Kurds were deported and massacred.

The area remained under permanent military siege until 1950.

In order to prevent the events from having a negative impact on Turkey´s international image and reputation, foreigners were not allowed to the visit the entire area east of Euphrates until 1965.

The Kurdish language was banned and the words “Kurds” and “Kurdistan” were removed from dictionaries and Kurds only referred to as “Mountain Turks”.

“The Turks, who had been fighting for their own freedom, crushed the Kurds, who sought theirs.

It is strange how a defensive nationalism develops into an aggressive one, and a fight for freedom becomes one for dominion over others.” (Jawaharial Nehru, Glimpses of World History, 1942)

Might the Kurds hold a grudge?

(To be continued)

Sources: Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know / Wikipedia

Flag of Turkey

The Last Sigh

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 4 January 2017

Outside my window, upon the streets of this wee hamlet, the snow remains.

Beneath the snow nature sleeps, awaiting the resurrection of spring.

Yet life continues nonetheless…

Cows and sheep graze beneath the snow for succulent grass.

Birds continue their happy carefree melodies.

Humans scurry and hurry about, seeking sustenance and comfort in a world so cold, earning their daily bread as best they can, hoping that in the continuance of life, a reason for living might be found.

Granada, Spain, 2 January 1492

“They are yours, O King, since Allah decrees it.”

El rey chico de Granada.jpg

Above: Emir Muhammad XII (aka Boabdil)(1460 – 1533)

With these words Boabdil, ruler of Granada, handed the keys to the city to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille, after a virtually bloodless siege that had lasted nine months.

The last Moorish stronghold in Spain surrendered to the might of the Spanish Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.

The Moors, who had arrived in Spain in 711, were finally defeated.

The gates of Grenada were thrown open and Ferdinand entered, bearing the great silver cross he had carried throughout his liberation of Spain from Moorish rule.

Boabdil rode out through the gates of Grenada with his entourage, never to return.

Reaching a lofty spur of the Alpujarras, he stopped to gaze back at the fabulous city he had lost.

As he turned to his mother who rode at his side, a tear escaped him.

But instead of the sympathy he expected, his mother addressed him with contempt:

“You do well to weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.”

The rocky ridge from which Boabdil had his lost look at Grenada has henceforth been called El Ultimo Suspiro del Moro – the Last Sigh of the Moor.

Vatican City, Papal States, 3 January 1521

Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici is tired of these doubting upstarts, especially one particular German priest.

He, his Holiness Pope Leo X, had directed the Vicar General of the Augustine Order to impose silence upon his monks.

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Above: Pope Leo X (1475 – 1521)

Yet Martin Luther would not cease his prattling.

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Above: Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

Then this troublesome German priest has the effrontery to contact his Holiness directly trying to educate the Church on how this institution established by the Son of God Himself was in error in its ways.

Luther is summoned to Rome.

But does he obey?

No.

Instead the Church has to summon Cardinal Cajetan (1469 – 1534) to travel to Augsburg and meet with this upstart monk.

Above: Cardinal Cajetan (on the left in red, standing before the book), Martin Luther (on the right), October 1518

A papal Bull is sent requiring all Christians to believe in the Pope´s power to grant indulgences.

Does Luther retract his 95 Theses?

No.

A year, an entire year, of endless fruitless negotiations with this stubborn German, but in typical German stubbornness and conviction of his being right regardless of risk or reasons against it, Luther will not budge.

His Holiness sends yet another Bull, condemning at least 41 propositions of Luther´s teachings.

Above: The Exsurge Domine (1521), from Pope Leo X

Luther publicly burns the damned thing.

Enough.

This German is an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the Church and thus let him be cast out.

Emperor Charles V has been directed to take energetic measures against heresy.

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Above: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519 – 1556)

The Church needs money.

The Church needs foreign aid.

It cannot be distracted nor dissuaded from its causes just and holy and ordained by God through his holy representative the Pope.

Christ must be glorified and His temporal power extended.

Let St. Peter´s and Rome demonstrate the glory of God.

Ornate building in the early morning with a giant order of columns beneath a Latin inscription, fourteen statues on the roofline, and large dome on top.

Let Ferrara, Parma and Piacenza take their rightful place within these Papal States.

Let us enjoy the Papacy since God has given it to us.

Indulgences are the will of God and let no one challenge the will of God.

Let Luther be excommunicated.

Above: The Decet Romanum Pontificem, the Papal Bull of Pope Leo X, excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church

Berkeley, California, USA, 29 December 2016

Huston Smith is dead.

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Above: Huston Smith (1919 – 2016)

Huston, a renowned scholar of religion who pursued his own enlightenment wherever he could, died at home, age 97.

Professor Smith was best known for The Religions of Man, (later retitled The World´s Religions) a standard textbook in college comparative religion classes, which examines the world´s major faiths as well as those of indigenous peoples, observing that all express the indescribable Absolute…

 

 

“If, then, we are to be true to our own faith, we must attend to others when they speak, as deeply and as alertly as we hope they will attend to us.

If we take the world´s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.”

Professor Smith had an interest in religion that transceded the academic.

In his joyful pursuit of enlightenment – to “turn our flashes of insight into abiding light” – Smith meditated with Tibetan Buddhist monks, practiced yoga with Hindu holy men, whirled with ecstatic Sufi Islamic dervishes, chewed peyote with Mexican indigenous people and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath with a daughter who had converted to Judaism.

Above: Buddhist Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

Above: Hindu goddess Shiva performing yoga, Karnataka, India

Above: Whirling Dervishes, Rumi Fest 2007

Above: Peyote drummer (1927)

Above: Jewish Shabbat praying with Shabbat candles

Smith was born to Methodist missionaries on 31 May 1919 in Suzhou, China.

The family soon moved to the ancient walled city Zang Zok, a “cauldron of different faiths”.

Smith decided to be a missionary and his parents sent him to Central Methodist University in Lafayette, Missouri.

Smith was ordained a Methodist missionary but soon realised that he had no desire to “Christianise the world”.

Smith would rather teach than preach.

Professor Smith joined campaigns for civil rights in the 1960s and for a more tolerant understanding of Islam in the 2000s.

Despite his liberal views, Smith argues that science might not totally explain natural phenomena.

Smith clung to Methodism while criticizing its dogma.

He prayed in Arabic to Mecca five times a day.

Above: The Kaaba in Mecca – the direction of prayer and the destination of pilgrimage for Muslims all over the world

His favourite prayer was written by a nine-year-old boy whose mother had found it scribbled on a piece of paper beside his bed.

“Dear God,

I´m doing the best I can.”

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Above: Michelangelo´s The Creation of Adam, The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter´s Basilica, Vatican City (1512)

Sources: Wikipedia / Douglas Martin and Dennis Hevesi, The International New York Times, 3 January 2017