FTAC – On “Why the Jews?”


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. . . it (anti-Semitism) doesn’t go away because the Jews and the mixed multitude that left Egypt with them perpetually represent an affront and rebuke to “absolute power”. God proves greater than Pharaoh, is completely separated from man –note: Muhammad finesses this point and gets as near to reviving bald conflation with the divine as his audience would permit — and moved beyond the solar system to somewhere beyond the universe. It’s a good program, for we see what men do when they confuse themselves with God.

From the tyrant in the family to the one that heads a state, their own messianism and narcissism work them into committing crimes from which they cannot retreat, and from that point, they loath the Jews for the threat presented to their own unbridled impulses. In the medieval mode, the clever whip the crowds for their own affirmation and as prelude to theft and murder on an unheralded scale.

It’s never only the Jews: note what Assad has done to Syria and the Syrians, who have been culturally programmed to hate the Jews and hate the west without understanding that they themselves have been the targets of, again, the absolute power of the dictator.

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FTAC – A Comment on Attitudes and Beliefs and Religion


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I believe in Judaism, but I don’t want to see a religious court developed in place of a secular one.

As an American, I appreciate the symbolism of the Jordan River as depicted or used in the Torah, but my river is the Potomac and my soul altogether American.

_God is Red_ by (Native American) Vine Deloria, Jr. makes an interesting case in regard to the relationship between a land and its people.

Also of basic interest may be Daniel Everett’s _Language: The Cultural Tool_ and _Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes_, both of which tell about our use of language as a tool of survival.

Those “internal variables and functions” operate with and through language over a base of emotional turmoil and valence.

In “Attitude-Behavior Correspondence” studies (at least back in the 1980s), for some, “Attitude = Belief x (Affect x Intensity) / Primacy”. What needs looking at are the arrangements of multiple beliefs. In survey form with the Likert scale, “Do you believe in God?” (1 = Not At All, 5 = As Strongly as Possible” becomes one question and “Do you believe that Muslims can never be friends with Christians and Jews” (1 = Completely Disagree, 5 = Completely Agree).

Add 38 more questions, distribute to 150 students on one campus somewhere, apply regression analysis to the response set, and see how “beliefs” — or statements about beliefs — correlate with one another.

Recapitulate on another campus.

Recapitulate with another age group.

Such studies can go on a while, but I would suggest that through social science and other methods, one will find certain beliefs, like the belief in God, primary, and other beliefs, like that having to do with not being friends, either dismissible (“completely disagree”) or minimized in the mind of the surveyed subject, and, when aggregated (through survey method), also minimized.

“Attitude = Belief x (Affect x Intensity) / Primacy” may be the BackChannel’s author’s own addition to the more customary configuration, “Attitude = Belief x Affect”.  It simply adds in the intensity of good or bad feeling (“affect”) about a belief and it recognizes that some of what we believe about our existence — start with one’s own name, which is fairly “low level” or basic in the programming of our own personalities — may be more dear to us than other aspects of an object, including ourselves as our own possession.

As regards an “American religion” — might there be such a thing? — BackChannels may turn some attention to revisiting early American literature and the classic visitor commentaries.

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FTAC – Resistance is Feudal


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Regarding the “Cold War”, the 24th anniversary of the dissolving of the Soviet Union took place December 26, 1991, which date places all of us in the 25th year out from the machinations of that abominable terror-supporting enterprise. Of Putin’s bid to sustain a modern security state and oligarchy — the “New Nobility” — it may be suggested that “Resistance is Feudal”, because it is. The open democracies and communicating systems of the modern world present an existential challenge to dictatorships worldwide that continue to rely on medieval methods for keeping themselves in power.

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FTAC – Medieval – Modern – Medieval – Modern – Time and Cultural Osmosis


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Modern Arabs and Muslims for Jews and Israel frequently encounter the defensiveness and xenophobia inspired by the complex history of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism, which story in Muslim-Jewish relations is not the only story, only the one over which people are rightly most sensitive.  The prompt for what follows emerged in a very small online workgroup on anti-Semitism — and kept restricted in headcount to keep the same manageable and progressing — and it involved the issue of Jewish defense accompanied by the familiar blanketing animosity that accompanies conflict between ethnically-identified rivals.  Diffusing that focus requires a very different view of intercultural politics and political reality.  

For BackChannels, today’s greatest struggle, and it’s a long one, is that between the medieval apprehension of the world and the realities of the modern world and its greater potential for humanity.  

With some wandering, this “From the Awesome Conversation (FTAC)” moves from simple apology for hurt toward a much greater theme: civilizational transitioning.

Although the BackChannels style has been to italicize such posts — and put this “further explanation” at the bottom of the piece — that approach has been reversed for length and greater ease of reading.

I’d like to see reconciliation here even while noting that context — “rhetorical situation” — shapes our conversations here and elsewhere.

There may be “component parts” and “knee jerk reactions” that just bring out the worst in us.

There are certainly impolitic thoughts swirling through our heads as passing events “get to us” and we “go off”.

And there are strong defenses involved in meeting criticisms that may go deep and turn a little meditation into a searing event.

There’s an old high school joke: “Time exists so that everything doesn’t happen at once; space exists so that everything doesn’t happen to you.” smile emoticon

Today, and because of our handle on the material necessities in life — no one starves for lack of food but rather lack of access to the same — “space” has become less important than “time” and how we live in Time is what all the arguing comes down to. The Jews, and I am certain in response to miseries, found their point of departure from the tyrannical and disordered — probably some Qaddafi-type of 6,000 years ago. smile emoticon “Pharaoh” gets the blame (and Egyptian women credit for rescuing Moses) . . . and we have all gotten a different start on a different civilizational path. It’s good to revisit the basics and perhaps as a different expanded base for something needed tomorrow. Time gives us time to play with time.

One more thing as regards bigotry in general: disaggregate. I don’t think the future needs a politics defined by, say, “Arabs and Jews”, but rather, at this time, the Medieval of Mind and the Modern. To get to a more modern world, a more mutually survivable world (at least) or more thriving (at best), some elements seem needed to get the “medieval of mind” through the barriers to the modern world.

In the peace crowd, it’s common to the point of cliche to talk about “building bridges”, i.e., “common ground”, and perhaps cultivated bonding.

The invisible sieve concept is different. It’s about massive positive filtering toward a more comfortable, peaceful, and prosperous world. Some Out There with Baghdadi and ISIS may not make it. Quite a few among leaders, sad to say, don’t want it because their power is invested in the perpetuation of medieval absolutism. Putin’s display of this was brilliant: $52 billion for the Winter Olympics at Sochi : $0.00 for Syrian Relief + the incubation of ISIS, which serves his medieval / neo-feudal worldview — and that of Assad and Khamenei as well.

Notably, this as an aside, I may regard the promotion of anti-Semitism as an artifact of the medieval world. It ranks right up there with the history of the use of the accusation of heresy in the Christian church as a means of leveraging wealth from competitors or the hapless, and in Muslim-majority states today, the “takfiri” have put on display the same political mechanics.

In other forums and following the Jewish mythos of a journey to a river, I’ve referred to a “river in time” that requires on the banks of the past a novel “forming up”. It sounds simple, but any brief reflection on the economic and social systems within and around clans, families, and tribes in their real politics tells that political reality proves anything but simple. While Khamenei has Revolutionary Guard forces in Iraq’s more sectarian Shiite militia, the state of Iraq itself struggles but nonetheless produces a more balanced official army, and one duly chastened by its route from Mosul and the ensuing slaughter visited upon its troops by ISIS. That the Iraqi defense forces have come back at all seems to me nothing short of miraculous, but now they’re doing their work.

The Syrian migration issue that has so fueled the arguments that divide the west (in chess: a fork) between cultural self-defense and the promotion of its Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian values — to which Islam may contribute or adjust, but ejection of al-Qaeda is certain — involves simply in-filtering good people while rejecting the infiltration of fascist-minded subversives who may be so by way of habits of mind or the adoption of ungodly ambitions.

The modern world is not altogether a good world, It can be deeply impersonal and “depersonalizing”; it can drop people from many kinds of inclusion, including economic, that neither churches nor families (or clans) are guaranteed to rescue or redeem; it can support criminals in the board rooms and in public offices: however, it strives continuously to be better than its current state as reflected in its state of affairs. Modernity involves ideas about cultural and social progress and produces systems — accountable, responsible, responsive — that produce, overall, a better state of being or life experience across the board.

The medieval want for themselves alone, and that with low regard for others.

Egypt may have an authoritarian politics in place today, but it’s modern and appears transitional; the wildly popular rejection and ejection of the Muslim Brotherhood signals, at least to me, a broad cultural recognition and sea change in response to a confrontation with a representative of the medieval world. Egyptians have chosen a march forward into something else — something modern.

Forgive my rambling.

Suffice it to say this forum may be as much about broad cultural change and preservation as much or more than anti-Semitism.

The experience may be likened to looking through a very small window out onto a much larger world, and, in the words presented here, “Tiimescape”.

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LGBT Protesters at Creating Change Call for the Destruction of Israel


Has Creating Change taken on a New Meaning: Does that Change involve LGBTQ America Supporting Anti Semitism?

By Melanie Nathan, January 21, 2016.

This week will go down in history as one of the saddest and most destructive, ever, in the lives of LGBTQ Jews.  We became the target of antisemitism disguised as protesting alleged “Israeli oppression.”  Anyone who truly understands the history, the context and milieu will clearly access the bottom line and that came in the form of the chant that served to helm the onslaught by LGBTQ protesters at the Creating Change 2016 Conference, who yelled:

” From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.”

CC16The chant reverberated through the halls of the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, as protesters eventually blocked access to attendees at a peaceful, all inclusive, religious Shabbat reception, held by A Wider Bridge (AWB) and to which Israeli LGBTQ guests had…

View original post 2,542 more words

Basijed! A Note on Saeid Golkar’s Comprehensive Overview of the Iranian Regime’s Scariest Cultural and Social Machine


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Dystopian Imagination —

Three authors: William Golding,  Aldous HuxleyGeorge Orwell.

Four books:  Animal Farm, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, Nineteen Eighty-Four

In the American high school education of the 1960s, the above were part of the canon taught to all.  Any who missed mention of Golding, Huxley, and Orwell or failed to read Animal Farm (or the Cliff Notes) would have had to have missed school altogether.  Awareness and fear of absolute obedience before a tyrannical authority; of erasure beneath the wheels of an engineered, mechanical, repeating society; of cynical political manipulation and exploitation; and of savagery itself were built into the imaginations of the young.  As our own society could not be the dystopian nightmares observed in reading, we would have to wade back through history or wait for the Islamic Small Wars as they present online to let us know that somewhere our fictions were emblematic of somebody’s political and social reality in situ.

Dystopian Reality — 

Golkar, Saeid.  Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2015

Training a new generation of youth and inoculating them against the Western cultural invasion constitute another mission of the female Basiji, who should make their “children aware of the problems of threats through explaining outcomes and upshots of the soft war.”  To achieve this goal, the WSBA established the Babies’ Basij to indoctrinate children before they reach school age.  To establish the Babies’ Basij, the WSBO implemented the plan of Quranic kindergarten (mahdha-e mehrab).  Under this plan, a WSBO kindergarten was established at each mosque with a WSBO base.  Children between the ages of three to five years attend these kindergartens.  In addition, the organization designs a curriculum to be used in the home for instructing children who are younger than three years of age.  Female Basiji are encouraged to bring their children to Basij activities, in order to socialize with other children and train them for future posts in the Islamic regime (p. 117)

Columbia University Press provided BackChannels with a review copy a month or two ago, and while reading took place post-haste, reviewing has had to wait for the “what to say” about a book whose author, Saeid Golkar, has covered the subject thoroughly and done so in plain textbook prose that makes the telling of the tale — specifically, coverage of the layout and history of the most pervasive organizational element exploited by the Iranian regime to create, reinforce, and sustain a society obedient to its will  —  on each page all the more chilling.

Although Golkar balances his exploration of the Basij organizations (“Basij is a Persian word meaning “mobilization.”  The complete name of the group, Sazeman-e Basij-e Mostazafan, means “Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed”) with this-or-that modules (.e.g, “The Basij: Nongovernmental Organization, Administered Mass Organization, or Militia?”), there are portions focused on the regime’s impositions throughout the land, and as much comes out in subchapter titling: “Penetration in Society: The Organizational Structure of the Basij”; “Mass Membership and Recruitment Training”; “The Mass Indoctrination of Basij Members”; “The Basij and Propaganda”; “The Basij and Moral Control”; “The Basij and Surveillance”; “The Basij and Political Repression”; “The Basij and the Controlling of Families . . . Schools . . . Universities . . . the Economy.”  By the time one reaches “Islamic Warriors or Religious Thugs?” the drift in concern has been made abundantly clear.

Golkar, however, generously covers the contrary view: the Basij are part of the regime’s patronage system, and those who wish to earn some money and make way on their careers may join for the familiar and practical causes known well to western chambers of commerce and numberless academic and civic organizations.

Just don’t forget who’s boss!

Here’s the last paragraph before the appendix:

“With the expansion of the Basij’s involvement in Iran’s social, political, and economic life, the opportunity for the country’s peaceful transition to democracy will decrease dramatically.  Because many Basij commanders and members have been co-opted by the IRI, it is not implausible to think that they will resist any serious attempts at government reform that would jeopardize their positions” (p. 196).

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FTAC – Candidate Trump’s Hidden Dilemma


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Trump the Businessman, not political scientist, and perhaps an ignoramus when it comes to the small wars linked to Islamists and the post-Soviet struggle to maintain in the world medieval “absolute power” — the power of despots — hasn’t a clue about the larger forces he’s encountered. He lives in the land of reaction: you-do | I-do. It’s a social game and in related psychology referred to as “transactional psychology”, but he’s oblivious to the chain that links together Putin, Assad, Khamenei, and Baghdadi and risks becoming himself a part of endless conflict in a medieval — “21st Century Feudal — context.

The appearance of open animosity between a cowardly, inflexible, paranoid, and short-sighted and the “Islamists”, with which company one should possess all of the aforementioned attributes, and greater Islam and the Ummah that needs to confront change within itself and through any number of channels forward into the modern world, bodes ill for western values.  In essence, Trumps “tough guy” posture mirrors Putin’s stance and plays into Putin’s own reactionary and 19th Century “New Nobility” vision.

Unlike Obama, Trump may not have access to the long narrative in realpolitik except through the few academics and advisors he may have summoned to brief him.  American presidents, this one way or another, get seated at the helm of a big chunk of machinery perpetually running, and it’s not until one gets into that chair that deeper operating instructions and orientation become possible.  For good reason, the outsider, not even a presidential contender, may not be able to see inside an administration’s general machinery.  While Americans continue to admire the productivity and strength of capital in the hands of a good businessman, the same values that produce that person may impede that “hard-nosed” personality’s approach to immense cultural and political transformation worldwide.

The Feudalists — Putin, Assad, Khamenei, Baghdadi, and their like worldwide — would like nothing more than the conflict that would perpetuate their stays in power and with it the grotesque enormity of their plunder.  The cliches apply: “East vs West”; “Christianity vs Islam” (and with that, we might as well revisit “Catholics vs Protestants” while certainly witnessing today “Shiites vs Sunnis”); and the general “Clash of Civilizations”.  The truth welling up out of the messes more resembles “Medieval Absolute Power” vs “Modern Democratic (and Meritocratic) Distributions of Power.”

“Medieval vs Modern” has long seemed to BackChannels the more true conflict axis.

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With Egyptian Naima Nas – One Question – One Good Answer


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The big one which explaining to those many millions who still think changes are easy to bring — just raise our minimum wage and reduce the prices! It is not that simple and reeducating them will take time, reducing dependency on the state will take time, and getting them to stop throwing trash outside their homes will take time. But the religious preachers will have to come on board and help in the brain “write” to counter the past 50-80 years of brainwash. That is the tough one, but that is an internal matter that concerns Egyptians and no one else.


What things (changes, conditions, policies, results) most produce hope in Egypt?

Naima Nas:

For as long as I can remember there have been (policies and changes and plans, etcetera ) but the one thing that has always been missing is autonomy en masse. The average citizen needs to be independent and resourceful, not just the hundred or so officials in office.

The good news is there are a lot of such citizens — possibly half the population.

There are the people who take advantage of reforms in any field and comply with laws that ensure improvements.  If more schools are available and the law says everyone must stay in school till a certain age, they make sure their children go to school and do their homework and learn well, regardless of how difficult, and move up the ladder.  I was born in a family like that . Policies or even magic potions have to be cooperated with not just set.

It may surprise you to learn that there have always been laws in Egypt addressing every area that needs addressing. The laws are all there, they just need to be applied to everyone without exception. That has always been the obstacle. That is the first thing that mesmerised me about Europe when I first stepped on the continent.  It does not matter what or how trivial or grave the discrepancy, everyone answers to someone.

But to apply that to the chaos that is Egypt -pulled from pillar to post for years – is to start at the top and work down. Which is exactly what Sisi ‘s logic appears to be and the reason why I unreservedly support the man in his quest.

I’ll list one or two things as examples.

1. Understanding that it is impossible to have democracy or anything remotely resembling a fair government when the ruling elite are theocratic . So the “Islamic for Muslims only president” had to go, pronto! And no one cares how legitimate were the elections that put him there. He lost his legitimacy when the plan to throw Egypt under the Sinai terror bus became clear. And no one was waiting for paperwork!

2. Now we all — or almost all — agree on what we don’t want and what we really wish for, so let us make these laws visible! Starting with swift action against corruption. From the top down. That is the hardest thing to do. Because we all have a time when we wish we can speed up a process any which way .

3. Leading by example. So as he (el-Sisi) goes on records extending his hand in peace and sealing it with representatives on official level to boot. So can we — the average citizens . No one is too controversial by attending church or a synagogue and having Christian and Jewish best friends as many of us have done for years.  Now it is definitely not a novelty to be tolerant and open minded because, look, the president has long been doing that.


4. The big one which explaining to those many millions who still think changes are easy to bring — just raise our minimum wage and reduce the prices! It is not that simple and reeducating them will take time, reducing dependency on the state will take time, and getting them to stop throwing trash outside their homes will take time. But the religious preachers will have to come on board and help in the brain “write” to counter the past 50-80 years of brainwash.  That is the tough one, but that is an internal matter that concerns Egyptians and no one else.

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