Friday, August 29, 2008
A wise man once said, "All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth." [Nietzsche]
When I ponder over the irremediable mess that the world is in, I wonder, who is given the responsibility to interpret the events... Because the interpretation will dictate further development of events and ultimate chance for arrival at truth... But if power is the driving engine behind this interpretation, what chance for truth to resurface any time soon?
And power and truth are quite often not co-extensive...
Search for truth high above?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
1920, American women were given the long-awaited and hard-fought right to vote upon the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and others remained crucial historic figures leading the struggle.
Today, at the Democratic National Convention, another woman, as influential and historically crucial, will make her speech, bidding farewell (only temporary) to the idea of a woman U.S. President.... Other women will follow, they will, and will make her dreams come true! She only made it easier for those others, while never succumbed to the pressures of the journey and came-- exhausted but stronger-- covered with mud and dust to the end! Our eternal gratitude to these brave women...
Say goodbye to Hillary
Friday, August 22, 2008
1864, 16 European states adopted the First Geneva Convention, formally known as the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field . It covers the treatment of the wounded in the battlefield.
The convention was inspired by the experiences of a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, who witnessed the sufferings of 40,000 soldiers wounded during a bloody conflict in 1859 between French-Piedmontese and Austrian armies after the Battle of Solferino. There was no mechanism in place to arrange truces to retrieve the wounded, who were typically left to perish of their wounds or of thirst.
Dunant rallied nearby villagers to render what relief they could, insisting on impartiality between the sides. He later wrote a book, 'A Memory of Solferino,' that described the horrors he had seen and called for the establishment of civilian volunteer relief corps to care for the wounded in battle.
In 1863, the Geneva Society for Public Welfare took up his cause and created a committee of five, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. On August 22, 1864, this committee brought together the representatives of 16 European states who adopted the first Geneva Convention. The conference also established the red cross on a white field (the reverse of the Swiss flag) as the protective emblem for those serving the wounded. (Courtesy of the Encyclopedia)
For more on the series of Geneva Conventions see on this blog below under Labels.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
1940, in Mexico an assassin fatally wounded Leon Trotsky with an ice pick. He died the next day. The mastermind behind the murder was Stalin.
Trotsky was a crucial figure in the Great October Revolution. He, along with Lenin, had foreseen the gloomy and tragic consequences of emerging Stalinism. When Lenin was told at his deathbed that Stalin's people were going to 'throw out' Trotsky, he exclaimed, "Throwing Trotsky overboard - surely you are hinting at that, it is impossible to interpret it otherwise - is the height of stupidity. If you do not consider me already hopelessly foolish, how can you think of that????" For this and many other reasons Lenin wrote his last 'Letter' to the party, warning of Stalin as the biggest danger...
A staunch socialist and Marxist, Trotsky could not have foreseen at that point in time that the very idea of Communism (an extreme manifestation of socialism) was deeply flawed. The Party was gaining enormous power and eventually ruled over the people-- in the name of the people-- like no other king or monarch. If that was going to cure the ills of monarchies, it was only a temporary pseudo-cure. Perhaps Marx and Engels had failed to take account of the deep-seated attributes of human nature, including the tendency to abuse power... Focused on the 'whole', the 'communa', they overlooked the little person, the 'individual'... What protections were they going to ensure to this little person against the abuses of governmental power?
"The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end." [Trotsky]
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Everyone by now is familiar with the work of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. But for decades we, children in the Soviet Union, were growing up not having the opportunity to even know about him, or even have a chance to get his printed work. Then in the early 90s his famous 'Archipelago Gulag' was published and shook the conscience of many in our former country. The West in contrast had long been familiar with his work.
Today Vladimyr Putin has made a call to encourage more coverage of Solzhenitsyn's work in schools for children. This is highly complimentary on part of Putin and dispels many attacks by opponents. He reportedly said, "это человек, который вместе с народом пережил великую трагедию и репрессии, своей жизнью и работой А.Солженицын сделал обществу значимую прививку против любых видов тирании". ("this is a man who lived through a great tragedy and repression along with his nation and whose life and work has significantly inoculated the society against all types of oppressions." translated by NM). here
Enough said. If only this acknowledgement came a few decades earlier...
The painting above, Burlaki, is by Ilya Repin, 1873. It does give a very good idea of the reality behind Archipelago Gulag even though it reflects a different historic time period. I can imagine how this painting could have inspired Solzhenitsyn...