THE MAN WHO GAVE CHE TO THE WORLD

Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, better known as Alberto Korda or simply Korda (September 14, 1928 in Havana, Cuba – May 25, 2001 in Paris, France) was a Cuban photographer, remembered for his famous image Guerrillero Heroico of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
The relationship between Fidel Castro and Korda could not be defined by one label or title. For Castro, Korda was more than an official photographer, a friend or personal photographer. They never discussed the salary or the title, their relationship wasn’t boss and worker. Thus, Korda was very relaxed, and interested in everything and everyone. Every photo he took was a symbol of the revolution, instead of a documentary of the events of the revolution. The Cuban Revolution was the turning point in Korda’s career. His career plans were completely changed with the success of the revolutionaries. In 1959 the newly established newspaper offered the largest space for photographers to display their photographs, and Korda became part of the revolutionary cause. Korda Says, “Nearing 30, I was heading toward a frivolous life when an exceptional event transformed my life: The Cuban Revolution. It was at this time that I took this photo of a little girl, who was clutching a piece of wood for a doll. I came to understand that it was worth dedicating my work to a revolution which aimed to remove these inequalities.” He got caught up in the ideals of the revolution and began photographing its leaders.
(en.wikipedia.org)
The revolution turned Alberto Korda’s career in a completely different direction. Korda said he “fell in love with the Revolution and its heroes”. He photographed Fidel Castro’s entrance into Havana in January 1959, with Camillo Cienfuegos, another notable Cuban revolutionary, by his side. Although Korda was not a photojournalist then, he took this picture to ‘Revolucion’, the newspaper of the Cuban revolutionaries, which published it. Four months later, ‘Revolucion’ asked Korda to accompany Fidel on his first trip abroad after the revolution, to Venezuela. Commenting on his relationship with Fidel, Korda said it was “distant at first, but I was very happy to photograph what I loved — and still love — the Revolution and Fidel”.
(Seeing with the heart, V. SRIDHAR, Frontline at hinduonnet.com)
As Revolution photographer Korda always worked at his own photographic tempo. He wasn’t pushed by the press or by any other requests. Where ever the revolution took Castro Korda followed. One of Korda’s most recognizable images was of Castro’s visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in April 1959. Castro’s travels took Korda all around Cuba, overseas, and the Soviet Union. In 1963, photos of Fidel and Nikita Khrushchev, taken by Korda, illustrated the differences in both men that were evident in their respective politics.
(en.wikipedia.org)
In 1969 Fidel went back to the Sierra Maestra, the remote mountain region, where the revolutionary army began its attacks on the army of the Fulgencio Batista regime. Korda’s style was to move to the front of whatever group Fidel was leading in order to get the shots he wanted. When Korda comes back to his home, his daughter couldn’t recognize him. His hair and beard were long and hadn’t showered for months. Korda took many pictures for the newspaper and called the series “Fidel Returns to the Sierra.” Fidel always liked Korda’s photos and never stopped him when he attempted to take his picture. He worked freely without thinking about political consequences, in order to get what he wanted in his photos.
(en.wikipedia.org)

Che Guevera

Che guevera
(Ernesto Guevara)
Guerrillero Heroico
Taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960
The La Coubre memorial service
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Che Guevara stepped onto the podium and scanned the crowd. Korda snapped two quick shots, including the legendary one of the revolutionary with his beret, gazing like a prophet into the distance. Korda recognised its greatness and kept the photo tacked to his wall for seven years, until an Italian journalist saw it.
(news.bbc.co.uk)
It is this photograph that adorns student bedsits across the world. The famed black and white portrait of Ernesto “Che” Guevara perfectly captured his intense stare and brooding good looks, helping establish his myth.
The fact that the photograph, taken with a Leica camera on 4 March 1960 at a political rally in Havana attended by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, came to international prominence owes as much to luck as Korda’s skill. “It was not planned, it was intuitive,” said Korda, who worked for the ‘Revolucion’ newspaper. He told one interviewer that Guevara had shown such an intense gaze that he had been briefly taken aback and only managed to fire off two quick shots, one vertical, one horizontal.
It was at the same rally that Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivered his famous “Homeland or Death” slogan in front of thousands of people. But the photograph of Guevara, which Korda later called “Heroic Guerrilla”, did not make the next day’s paper and only emerged after Guevara’s death in Bolivia seven years later.
(Row rages over iconic image of Che Guevara, Jamie Doward, The Observer, Sunday 7 March 2010 at guardian.co.uk)
No other image — apart from the one of Marilyn Monroe standing at a subway grid — has been reproduced as many times in history. That photograph of Che, with his long hair flowing from underneath his beret with a star affixed to it, his eyes gazing into the distance, can be found on posters, subway walls and countless consumer articles such as T-shirts, mugs, key chains, wallets and cigarette lighters all over the world. It also adorns walls across Cuba where Che is loved for the part he played in the cause of the revolution. However, the man who took that photograph, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, known to the world as Alberto Korda, never made anything for himself from the image he gave the world.
Wherever Korda went, at photographic exhibitions or while talking to youth about photography, he would invariably be asked about that famous image of Che and how he created it. This is how he described it to Pacifica: “This photograph is not the product of knowledge or technique. It was really coincidence, pure luck.” Korda was one among the 20 to 30 photographers below the grandstand that day and Che made a brief appearance at the front of the stage, for barely a minute. Korda managed to take just two shots of Che – one horizontal and one vertical. He rejected the vertical shot because a head covered Che’s shoulder; he cropped the horizontal shot and gave it to ‘Revolucion’. French writers Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were among those present at the memorial service for 136 people killed in an explosion that destroyed a vessel loaded with weapons for the Cuban government. Ironically, ‘Revolucion’ did not use Korda’s pictures of Che; it carried his other pictures, of Castro and Sartre and Beauvoir. The Che pictures remained forgotten until after his death in Bolivia.
(Seeing with the heart, V. SRIDHAR, Frontline at hinduonnet.com)
The picture was still hanging on the wall in 1967, by now tobacco-tinted though, when a man knocked on the door. The person did not present himself, but handed over a letter of introduction from a high-ranking member of the Cuban administration. The letter asked Korda to help this person in his search for a good Che picture. Korda pointed at the wall saying: “This is my best Che picture”. The visitor agreed and asked for 2 copies of the print. Korda told him to return the next day, which he did. When asked the price of the prints, Korda replied, that since the visitor was a friend of the revolution, he didn’t have to pay.
What Korda didn’t know, was that the visitor was the famous Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Well known in Europe for smuggling the “Dr. Zivago” manuscript out of The Soviet Union. Feltrinelli came to Cuba directly from Bolivia, where he had been negotiating the release of Regis Debray. Having learnt from Debray, that Che Guevara was the guerrilla-leader in Bolivia and that the end might be near, Feltrinelli saw a business opportunity in the possible assassination of Che.
(Michael Harder Photography 2001 at pix.dk)
The corpse of Che Guevara was hardly cold in Bolivia, before you could buy big posters, all around the world, with the Korda-image of Che. Copyright Feltrinelli it said, down in the corner. In half a year, Feltrinelli sold 2,000,000 posters. Later on the image has been transformed, transplanted, transmitted and transfigured all over the world.
Korda never received a penny. For one reason only – Cuba had not signed the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described the protection of intellectual property as imperialistic “bullshit”.
(Michael Harder Photography 2001 at pix.dk)
By 1969 Korda had quit covering politics, turning instead to underwater photography. Now semiretired, he supports himself with freelance advertising jobs and by selling photos of Castro and Che for $500 apiece.
When not at work, the four-time divorce and father of five nurtures his other great passion: women. He and his 21-year-old companion, Zaeli Miranda, share a modest two-bedroom apartment with her sister and a friend in Havana’s Miramar district. “He’s friendly and loving,” Miranda says of Korda. “I’ll ask him to take out the garbage, and he does it happily.”
Korda, took the photo when Che was 31, yet never tried to protect his copyright. That is, until Smirnoff appropriated the image for a 1998-99 U.K. vodka ad campaign. “Hundreds of companies used my photo, but none have been as offensive,” says Korda, 72. “Che wasn’t a drinking man. He was a revolutionary killed defending his ideals.” Outraged, the Havana-based photographer slapped a lawsuit on a London advertising firm and a photo agency for trivializing Che’s image. A hearing was set. The ad agency, Lowe Lintas, denies “infringement of any copyright or moral rights.”
Korda says no matter how his lawsuit turns out, his lifestyle won’t change, and any proceeds will buy medicine for Cuban children. “I don’t care about money. I like being a poor man,” he says. “I went after Smirnoff because of their degenerate ad. It’s the principle of the thing.”
(The Way of Che By Joanne Fowler, September 25, 2000 at storage.people.com)

WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY

Almost all human beings do have something to ask for from Almighty. Some have a craving for some lawful worldly objects, some have to ask for solutions of their problems, some longing for remedy of illness and getting good health, while some have the far-sight of asking favors of the next world. Thus everyone has something to ask from his/her own angle of view.
(boltwolf.tripod.com)
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself with a flashlight in your hand in a room that is totally dark. You turn on the flashlight and see a beautiful painting hanging on the wall. You might think, “Sure, this is a wonderful work of art, but is this all there is?” Then, all at once, the room becomes illuminated from above. You look around and see that you are in an art museum, with hundreds of paintings on the walls around you, each more beautiful than the last. As these possibilities stand revealed to you, you realize you have a lifetime of art to study and love. You are no longer constrained to view just one painting lit by the weak glow of your flashlight.
(Excerpted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 2003 by Deepak Chopra at deepakchopra.wwwhubs.com)
Can anything be classed as real when our perceptions differ greatly on so many things? Just because we see something a particular way does not make it so. We can be so insistent sometimes that our way of seeing something is more right than someone else’s way.
Let’s take the example of war. There are some people who believe that war is necessary sometimes to get peace and then in order to keep the peace. There are other people who will believe that war is evil and should never be entered into no matter what. Who is right? Is war right or wrong? That’s just an example…..
What you see as real is only defined by your belief structure. Your version of what is real is only your perception of it; not what is so.
Here’s another example: Let’s say an event occurs in your life. You have the choice about how you respond to it. Let’s say you have a death in the family. You can choose to see that event as something terrible and tragic to which you will respond accordingly. Or, you can choose to see that event and something that inspires you to make something more of your life; living every day as if it was the last, so to speak.
From that example you can see that you may or may not have control over the events in your life but you can certainly take control of how to respond to them. That part of life will always be within your power. This is where life gets interesting because you shape your own reality through your beliefs.
Your belief structure determines your perception which then ultimately determines how you respond to events. Going by that sequence you can then see that there is another place to start. You can choose to examine your beliefs and then choose to change them.
(Adaptted fron Perception vs Reality by Amit Sodha on March 22, 2006 at unlimitedchoice.org)
We have a very narrow view of things. Naturally, the imperfect existence cannot be the source of perfect consciousness. The imperfect perspective of the human mind cannot be expected to give a complete picture of things in their true state of affairs.
There is a habit of the mind by which it looks at things in a linear fashion, in a line or a straight vision, as it were, as a series of objects, a line in space and time, and this is what may be succinctly called the three-dimensional perspective or the individualistic perception of the human mind – to look at things as bodies, as isolated existences, with the feeling that you and I are different, that things are isolated from one another in such a manner that there cannot be intrinsic or organic connections among them. This is perhaps the historical way of things. There is no organic connection between events in history. They are mathematically or causally related, so that one follows the other.
(An Analysis of Our Perception of Historical Personalities by Swami Krishnananda at swami-krishnananda.org)
The ultimate source of our problems is in thought. Our thinking determines our actions and our actions determine the quality of our relationship with each other. Society is the result of relationships. Problems arising out of human relationship appear to be intractable. There is conflict at all levels of human relationship. There is conflict between husband and wife, between parent and child, between one group and another, between nations, religions and within the same political and religious organizations. There is enormous confusion, violence, brutalities, the wars, terrorism and endless division of religion and nationality. Roots of disorder lie in the state of human mind.
Unfortunately we use the same thinking ability to find solutions to the numerous complex and intricate problems that thought has created. Past history clearly demonstrates that despite all the knowledge and experience accumulated through centuries, man has not been able to produce a harmonious and healthy society. We do make some improvements here and there but the overall situation remains grim. The momentum at which the problems are being created is quite overwhelming. It is obvious that there must be a serious flaw in the way we think.
It is amazing that two distinct systems of thought operate within the framework of human consciousness, one that creates the problem and the other that tries to find solution to the problem. Both arise out of the same source. That source is self-centeredness. Thinking arising out of self-interest, self-concern creates numerous problems. Problems like greed, jealousy, anxiety, anger, hate and violence arise out of the conditioned state of mind. Any problem that arises in the mind poses a challenge and there is an automatic response to meet the challenge. This response generates thought process that has no clue as to how the problem got created.
It is extremely important that we should understand the nature of the self because most of our actions spring from this center. Our perceptions and responses to the challenges of life and our basic urges, desires and demands are determined by the nature of the self. Human relationship is based on the operation of thought that is self-centered. Only a profound understanding of the nature of the self can bring about inward revolution.
(Adapted from Clarity of Perception by SardarSingh, September 17, 2009 at lifeisrelationship.com)
One of the things people are quickly becoming aware of is the media’s nonstop repetition of the same old themes and always trying to keep us scared and manipulated, whether it be who to vote for in an upcoming election or the suppression and total disregard of information which paints things in a different picture to the one that they are trying to impose on us. Another is how democracy is just two sides of the same coin so to speak, they offer us choice but that choice is limited inside of their choices.
Freedom is more than a word. It is everything and the only thing that is in our way of obtaining it is our own perception. What we perceive is what believe. Consider this, if we were walking along and spotted a house and someone said that it was a nice house and you disagreed, and then which one of you is right? The thing about perception is that more often than not it is not even your own perception; it was manipulated from the day you were born and constantly conditioned by outside forces, from parents to school and work. We are being bombarded with influence and the problem with that is we don’t realize it until we become someone else’s perception altogether and we cry out inside to ourselves.
If someone said the words planet earth most people would immediately conjure up visions of the earth from space as we know it, a giant sphere covered in ocean, dotted with land and surrounded with clouds. But what if you could see ultraviolet light, or x-ray or even gamma rays? Than earth would look incredibly different to you and would therefore provoke different thoughts and feelings, you see everything is symbolic and just because you see something does not mean you see all aspects of something; you just have an idea of how it is and this is one of the biggest problems in the world today as Governments, Media, religion and society in general are constantly trying to take other peoples freedom to see things from many angles and points of view and limit them to only the ones they want them to see. Parents are some of the worst offenders for this.
Everything expresses itself in many shapes and forms and your perception is the only thing that holds it in that myopic and preconceived view you have. You must open yourself up to possibility and when you do that you can let the information flow freely and make an informed judgment. But that is not the world we live in now; the world we live in now is the same world that burnt people alive at the stake for ideas just a few hundred years ago, and although we may not be as physically brutal anymore, fear of changing the way we look at things is still alive and kicking in today’s social structure.
(Adapted from How Everything is a Symbolic Representation of Your Perception, by AndrewCalvisi Mar 2nd, 2010 at bukisa.com)

RULE OF LAW, NOT RULE BY MAJORITY

A majority taken collectively is only an individual, whose opinions, and frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another individual, who is styled a minority. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength.
The main evil of the present democratic institutions does not arise from their weakness, but from their irresistible strength. The excessive liberty which reins in any country as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny. An individual or a party is wronged, to whom can he apply for redress? If to public opinion, public opinion constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it represents the majority and implicitly obeys it; if to the executive power; it is appointed by the majority and serves as a passive tool in its hands. The public force consists of the majority under arms; the jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases; and in certain states even the judges are elected by the majority. However iniquitous or absurd the measure of which you complain, you must submit to it as well as you can.
( Unlimited Power of the Majority in The United States, and its Consequences, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocquevilleat xroads.virginia.edu)
The phrase “tyranny of the majority” (or “tyranny of the masses”), used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority’s interests so far above a dissenting individual’s interest that the individual would be actively oppressed, just like the oppression by tyrants and despots.
(en.wikipedia.org)
“The tyranny of majorities may be as bad as the tyranny of kings.” Arthur James Balfour, 1848-1930.
The American founding fathers were incredibly wise. They had experienced firsthand the tyranny of kings and realized that concentrating power in one person was dangerous. They designed the American governmental system such that power would be spread among three equal branches of government. Rejecting the divine right of monarchy, they felt that government was only legitimate when governing by the consent of the governed.
The founding fathers also realized that pure democracy was nothing more than a fancy term for mob rule. They knew that the majority was not always right. They gave a country not ruled by the majority, but ruled by law – a nation of laws, not of men. Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801 said, “Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable;…the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression”. The law provides protection when the majority is wrong.
Every civilized society needs laws, needs rules to govern behavior. Without laws, we are subject to the impulses of the majority or to those with the means to enforce their whims. In the late 18th century, the king had the power to enforce his desires, no matter how oppressive. Later in the same century, the French Revolution showed the brutality of mob rule – emotional, irrational democracy in action. The French atrocities may have been democratic, that is, sanctioned by the majority, but they were still atrocities.
Law is objective; justice is blind. The flaws in our system of governance are caused not by the nature of law, but by the emotional application of the law by people. Injection of irrational emotionalism into the law subverts the intent of the law, and opens the door for abuse, oppression and tyranny.
We accept these laws and other rules – what Frederick Hayek calls “rules of just behavior” – because we believe that they are in our best interest. We would not accept a majority ruling that abolished the Bill of Rights, or one that legalized murder because we know that these actions would not support the general welfare of our nation. Instinctively, we know that the majority is not always right.
In political science, democracy is an interesting concept, but in reality it doesn’t work. Democratic theory ignores human emotions and passions. The theory does not account for selfishness, bias, prejudice or ignorance. These real life attitudes make necessary laws and rules to prevent the potential abuses of power caused by unbridled emotion.
(Adapted from The tyranny of the majority By Charles Bloomer, senior writer for Enter Stage Right at enterstageright.com)
There are communities in which the members of the minority can never hope to draw the majority over to their side, because they must then give up the very point that is at issue between them. Thus an aristocracy can never become a majority while it retains its exclusive privileges, and it cannot cede its privileges without ceasing to be an aristocracy.
If, on the other hand, a legislative power could be so constituted as to represent the majority without necessarily being the slave of its passions, an executive so as to retain a proper share of authority, and a judiciary so as to remain independent of the other two powers, a government would be formed which would still be democratic while incurring scarcely any risk of tyranny.
(Unlimited Power of the Majority in The United States, and its Consequences, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocquevilleat xroads.virginia.edu)
Democracies were thought vulnerable to two distinct forms of majority tyranny. The first is political or legal tyranny that operates through the formal procedures of majoritarian rule. Where all aspects of government, from public opinion and juries to the legislature, the executive, and even some judges, are a function of the majority, its power is absolute. As Tocqueville put it in the first volume of Democracy in America (1835), “politically speaking, the people have a right to do anything.”
The second type is the moral or social tyranny the majority exercises through custom and the power of public opinion. “As long as the majority is still silent,” Tocqueville observed, “discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent.” More insidious than the overt tyranny long practiced by monarchs and despots, which was physically brutal but powerless to inhibit the exercise of thought, under this new form of “democratic despotism,” as Tocqueville would come to call it, “the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved.”
(Tyranny of the Majority, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences )
Why governments sometimes follow the law and other times choose to evade the law? The traditional answer of jurists has been that laws have an autonomous causal efficacy: law rules when actions follow anterior norms; the relation between laws and actions is one of obedience, obligation, or compliance. The rule of law results from the strategic choices of relevant actors. Rule of law is just one possible outcome in which political actors process their conflicts using whatever resources they can muster: only when these actors seek to resolve their conflicts by recourse to law, does law rule. What distinguishes rule-of-law as an institutional equilibrium from rule-by-law is the distribution of power. The former emerges when no one group is strong enough to dominate the others and when the many use institutions to promote their interest.
(Democracy and the rule of law by Adam Przeworski, José María Maravall)
In any institution in which a majority of citizens or members can pass laws or rules that apply, not just to themselves, but to all members of the group, judgment is required to distinguish potential laws which are reasonable and fair from those which are tyrannical because they are unnecessary, unfair, and justifiably intolerable to the minority that opposed them. And formal mechanisms need to be in place, wherever feasible, to prevent tyrannical laws from being passed by those whose judgment in such matters might fail.
(The Need for Formal and Informal Mechanisms to Prevent “Tyranny of the Majority” in Any Democratic Government by Rick Garlikov)
“Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own…..” (John Stuart Mill to On Liberty, The Library of Liberal Arts edition)
There is a common misconception that in a democracy, 51% of the electorate can override the wishes of the other 49%, even ordering genocide by decree if they wanted to. This is not so; it may be true in the idealized dystopia world of some political scientists, but in reality, no democracy is a democracy for very long if it implements a tyranny of the majority.
There is however a worrying tendency amongst many people to assume that all branches of government must always reflect the views of the majority, no matter what, without regard for the rule of law.
In a democracy, the laws created by the institutions are to be enforced and followed, regardless of whether the majority benefits or is harmed by them. In the West, it is not possible for white policemen to gun down suspicious-looking black men on the excuse that these people are probably criminals, or that this coldblooded murder benefits the majority white population.
Similarly, when the courts interpret the law, they are supposed to have only one thing in mind — what the law says. To allow the majority to impose its will on the minority by coercing the courts into following a false interpretation of the law is to throw the door open to anarchy.
The institutions of a country do not exist to provide a semblance of organization to the messy process of enforcing a tyranny of the majority. A civilized country is ruled by what the statute books have to say, not by the whims and fancies of the majority.
In some “democracies”, the branches of government which are directly or indirectly elected by the citizens seem to think they can lord it over the unelected branch, which is usually the judiciary.
But all that does is raise the question, what is supreme in a civilized nation? Is it the will of the majority, or the will of the constitution? In some idealized dystopia “democracy”, the will of the majority may be supreme, but in the real world, any self-respecting civilized society knows that it is the law which takes priority.
(johnleemk at infernalramblings.com)

HE WAS THE FIRST NATIVE EGYPTIAN TO RULE EGYPT IN OVER 2500 YEARS

In 1929, Gamal Abdel Nasser entered the boarding house of the Helwan High School where he stayed for one year. The following year, he moved to Ras El-Tin High School after his father joined the Postal Service in Alexandria, Egypt. It was at that school that Nasser’s national sentiment was shaped.
In 1930, the Ministry of Ismail Sidky issued a decree pertaining to the cancellation of the 1923 constitution. This fueled student demonstrations calling for the fall of colonialism and the re-institution of the constitution.
Nasser recounts the first demonstration in which he participated: “While crossing the Manshiya Square in Alexandria, I noticed clashes between some demonstrating students and the police, I did not hesitate: I immediately joined the demonstrators not knowing anything about the cause of demonstration for I found no reason to ask. It was at the police station, while receiving treatment for my head injuries, that I learned that the demonstration was an anti-government protest led by the “Masr El-Fatah” (Young Egypt) society. I went to jail filled with zeal and came out fuming with anger” (Interview with Sunday Times correspondent David Morgan, 18 June 1962).
In 1933, Nasser joined El-Nahda Secondary school at El-Zaher district in Cairo where he pursued his political career and became head of El-Nahda schools student union. During that time, his passion for reading on patriotic and history-related literature led him to read about the French Revolution, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Gandhi. He even wrote an article entitled “Voltaire, the Man of Freedom” which was published in the school magazine. He also read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
(nasser.bibalex.org)
At the end of World War Two, colonialism still dominated large parts of the Arab World. Egypt was a monarchy under British rule and the base of Britain’s presence in the Middle East.
Egyptian discontent at still being a colony was rising and Egyptians felt angry and humiliated after their poorly-armed military lost the 1948 war against Israel.
On July 23, 1952, a group of Egyptian army officers, calling themselves the Free Officers Movement, took power in a bloodless coup. At the forefront of the uprising was a charismatic young army officer called Gamal Abdel Nasser.
This was the first military coup to happen in the Arab World and it set a precedent for many to follow. After assuming power, Nasser and the Free Officers formed the Revolutionary Command Council, which constituted the real power in Egypt. General Muhammad Naguib became Egypt’s first president. However, it soon became clear that the revolution was driven by the charisma of Nasser, and his strong ideological notions. Conflict with Naguib over strategies soon resulted in his removal, and in October, 1954 Nasser was appointed president of Egypt. He was the first native Egyptian to rule Egypt in over 2500 years.
Nasser set about changing Egypt. He had his own vision for both a new nation and the Arab World. Politically, he transformed Egypt into a republic, introducing centralized parliamentary rule, but he is better known for his domestic social programmes. Dia’ El Din Mohammad Daoud, the secretary-general of the Nasserite movement, says: “For the first time an Egyptian leader from the people and not from the upper classes, was able to win the hearts of the Arab people, there was now contact with various Arab forces and dialogue, there was a common language, one with which all Arabs could identify, this paved the way for a common Arab strategy.”
Nasser’s modern take on nationalism inspired Arabs, in a way which the Nahda, the Arab renaissance of the 19th century, had not. Nasserism had taken Arabism a step further. He believed Arabs would be stronger if united, that they shared a common struggle against colonial powers and that the liberation of Palestine should be an Arab duty.
Nasser’s vision extended far beyond Egypt. He believed that the lessons of the revolution should be applied in other Arab countries. His charisma and influence were so great that he inspired Arabs elsewhere to dream of a unified Arab nation. His defiant attitude towards Egypt’s former colonial masters made him even more popular. Nasserism swept the region.
(aljazeera.com)
Gamal Abdel Nasser, on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:
“During 1953 and 1954, Party of the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to influence the course of the Revolution and submit it to their guardianship. We were not in agreement. Then, they have declared war on us and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria, October 26, 1954. The battle has begun and we imprisoned the terrorist members of the party.
In the year 1954, while we were negotiating withdrawal terms with the English occupation forces from Egypt, the ‘brothers’ held their secret meetings with staff members of the British Embassy. They told the British: ‘we can take over power; we will do this and that… ‘. That was taking place during our negotiations with British Empire, meanwhile the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood in no way acted as patriot Egyptians.
To the question: ‘what is your position on the Canal. ” (i.e. The Suez Canal) for which we were fighting, there Morshid [i.e. The Guide] answered the question! It’s you who are interested, in Egypt to fight for the canal; we have a consideration to fight elsewhere! This is the message of Muslim brothers; they are misleading the masses and trading in religion!
In 1953, we sincerely considered to work with them and to make sure they are on the right way. I myself met the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood who has put conditions to us:
Their Morshid demanded of us In the first place, you should impose “Hijab’ (veil) on Egypt’s women, he stated. He told me as a leader, this is your responsibility! I told him, Morshid “guide”, you have a daughter enrolled in the Faculty of medicine, who does not wear a veil. So why don’t you make her wear it? If you are unable to impose the veil on a single girl, in this case your daughter, you want that of me alone, to throw the veil on ten million women in this country!
The Morshid “guide” added, women must not work! I said, by allowing women to work, we protect women from misery. We know all the stories of poor women, sick or healthy, who have had to survive… The work is a protection for women. Prevent them from work goes against society interest. We are working on empowering women so that men and women can mutually support each other! His conditions and demands do not stop there! He demanded of us ‘to close cinemas, theatres’… to immerse Egypt in darkness!
Obviously, we couldn’t give in to their demands. They fought us. In 1954, they have embarked on their assassination attempts and their ‘deception’ using religion; eventually some of them ended up convicted by the tribunal of the Revolution.
That was before the adoption of the Constitution, when we decided to pardon them and released them from the prisons. We have even enacted a law enabling them to go back to work, claim their salaries, work promotions and guaranteed their rights in all areas.
That was what we did in 1964. But in 1965, we discovered their secret organizations plotting a new conspiracy, they carried out attacks on the country’s infrastructure and I was a target as well. A plot with a rather amazing ruthlessness: the Egyptian people would be ‘apostate’. “They are Muslims Brotherhood; therefore they have to take power to guarantee that God governs in the country, not man!”
Ok! But how could God govern without Prophet? We know all that at the beginning of Islam there was a prophet! They said, we refuse the Sunni representation. We reject the parliamentary representation. We want the Government of God! But who could therefore ensure that Government of God? They can! Their Morshid “guide” is therefore the Prophet of God and we are all apostates. All Arab countries, even those that receive and supports them today, including rulers and citizens are apostates. This is what they told us: they are the only Muslims!
Naturally, they were arrested. It was certainly not a trivial operation to try to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser. But for one Gamal Abdel Nasser murdered arise thousand more! It is not possible to murder a whole nation. Whatever the circumstances, we cannot tolerate their destructive operations, nor their fascist behavior and ideology seeking to govern on behalf of God, while they are actually motivated by hatred.
We have therefore commenced to investigate the history of each of them who were involved or collaborated with the secret organizations. We will do the same with the heads and dangerous members of their secret organizations, who were released from prison in 1964… The rest will be released and they shall be entitled to a second chance.
Enough is enough! We will not allow them to endanger our national achievements of the past nineteen years, which were attained through hardship and suffering. We cannot rely on the henchmen of the colonizers and the reactionaries, regardless of their names, and even if the name is that of so-called Muslim Brotherhood. We all know that, in this case, their Islam is a hoax intended to entrap more people in joining them. They are just a dark force full of hatred. Their leaders have worked with those of the “Baghdad Pact” and those of the colonial countries. Their have collaborated with our enemies. They have clearly shown that the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing other than a tool used to serve the colonial powers and its reactionary puppets. Our principles forbid us from leaving these collaborators of colonialism and feudalism causing more harm to our country. We shall protect Egypt’s future and ensure the nation’s achievements.
In 1954, they tried to kill the Revolution while serving the interests of colonialism. We succeeded to reach an agreement with the English colonial power, who was occupying us on the date, forcing the occupation to agree to the withdrawal from Egypt within a maximum of 20 months. This is the time they chose to launch their deadly operations and tried to assassinate me in Alexandria.
We knocked them out and we were able to halt them. Today, the people of Egypt do despise the Muslim brotherhood since they know who they are. We did give them a second chance; they did not want it to work.”
(saebpress.com)
Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work. The movement initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics.
While the Ikhwan say that they support democratic principles, one of the group’s stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is: “Islam is the solution.”
After Banna launched the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, branches were set up throughout the country – each running a mosque, a school and a sporting club – and its membership grew rapidly.
By the late 1940s, the group is estimated to have had 500,000 members in Egypt, and its ideas had spread across the Arab world. At the same time, Banna created a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.
The Egyptian government dissolved the group in late 1948 for attacking British and Jewish interests. Soon afterwards, the group was accused of assassinating Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi. Banna denounced the killing, but he was subsequently shot dead by an unknown gunman – believed to have been a member of the security forces.
In 1952, colonial rule came to an end following a military coup d’etat led by a group of young officers calling themselves the Free Officers.
(bbc.com)
Egypt had endured autocracy for decades. It was Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein who first suppressed The Muslim Brotherhood, which was reactionary and opposed his land reforms and modernization plans, in the 1950s. But Nasser was extremely popular: he had planned the ouster of King Farouk, survived an assassination attempt by a Brotherhood member, and later became a hero of the Suez confrontation with Britain, France and Israel.
After the death of Nasser, Anwar el Sadat became president. After Sadat was assassinated Hosni Mubarak succeeded him. Mubarak tried to contain the Brotherhood. Not a single one of the current generals, including defense minister and coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, has the popularity, charisma, intelligence, and track record of Nasser to overwhelm the Brotherhood by force.
(blackstarnews.com)
General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, now the supreme power, appears to be feeding into nostalgia for nationalist president after July coup.
The two men can be seen together all over central Cairo, on banners, flags and on posters on sale to tourists and locals. One is mustachioed, square-jawed, and handsome, with short graying hair and an enigmatic smile; the other is clean-shaven, open-faced, most often in dress uniform, a clutch of medals on his left breast.
The first man is the pan-Arab nationalist former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, hammer of the Muslim Brotherhood, who died in 1970. The second is General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, head of Egypt’s armed forces and, since the July coup that ousted the Brotherhood-backed president, Mohamed Morsi, the supreme power in the country.
In the coffee shops of Cairo, where political discussions have bounced off peeling walls since Nasser’s death, a vigorous debate is taking place over whether Sisi has deliberately risen in the former’s likeness – and what parallels between the two men’s careers may mean for post-revolutionary Egypt.
While Sisi has pledged stability as a central plank of the military-led government he will shepherd towards elections in the future, he has also tapped into themes that Nasser used to enshrine his legacy as one of modern Egypt’s most celebrated figures.
In his public appearances since the 3 July coup, Sisi has mirrored Nasser’s key messages of nationalism, skepticism of western intentions, Arab dignity and strong leadership. The latter has been seized on by a broad swath of the Egyptian public that has struggled in the chaos of the revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s presidency in January 2011.
The parallels between him and Sisi run deep. Nasser had a background as an officer and became president with military support in 1956, after planning the revolution that had ousted Egypt’s last monarch, King Farouk, four years earlier. Sisi also has a revolution under his belt. And, while not currently an elected official, he is being talked about as a presidential candidate after the interim government ends.
“We have to make a distinction between Sisi as a person and the military institution he represents. He has a good chance to prove himself now and there is a sense that he represents the Egyptian national identity that the Brotherhood wanted to steal away.” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a presidential candidate in 2012 for a bloc of Nasserist parties, called the Popular Current.
The deadly showdown with the Brotherhood, which remains bitterly disenfranchised and encamped in two parts of Cairo, shows no sign of being conciliated. Sisi’s generals have repeatedly warned during the past week that both sites, at Raba al-Adawiya and near Cairo University, will be cleared imminently. More bloodshed would likely cast a pall over a legacy that remains very much in the making. Although some Egyptians feel that another showdown (two massacres have already taken place since 3 July 2013) may be a price worth paying, despite almost certain condemnation from some western states.
“The thing that links the two is that Sisi, like Nasser rejects the west and wants national independence,” said Mohammed Fahim. Both men fighting the Muslim Brotherhood are not seen as a bad thing.” Nasser, the man the Brotherhood wanted to forget is, however, very much part of the new Egyptian psyche. “It’s up to Sisi whether he leads by example, or just reflects in his glory,” said Fahim.
After the last verdict from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters, the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is set to face a future that mirrors the majority of its past: once again becoming an illegal organization.
After some deliberation, the presiding judge proclaimed, “The court bans the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and its nongovernmental organization, and all activities that it participates in and any organization derived from it.” He also ordered the interim government to freeze the Brotherhood’s assets and establish a panel to administer them until any appeal has been heard.
The court didn’t reveal the grounds for the ruling, but it was apparently prompted by the leftist National Progressive Unionist Party—also known as Tagammu—who claim that the Brotherhood have links to terrorists organizations and are guilty of “exploiting religion in political slogans.” Whatever the reason for the verdict, it seems that the spectacular fall of the Muslim Brotherhood is now complete.
That alleged link to terrorist organizations would have been bolstered in the eyes of the Egyptian public after the recent failed assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim. Although Ibrahim escaped unscathed from the apparent suicide bombing, the attack killed one and left at least ten wounded, with voices on the street instantly pinning the blame on the Brotherhood.
“Of course it was the Brotherhood—they are terrorists! Who knows what they will do next?” cried a street vendor in downtown Cairo after hearing the news over the radio. Despite the fact that an al Qaeda-inspired group known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has since claimed responsibility for the attack—and the Brotherhood have vehemently denounced it—they still remain guilty in the eyes of many Egyptians.
After weeks of stringent crackdowns that have resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians and the arrest of most of their leading members and activists, the political potency of the Muslim Brotherhood has completely dissipated.
(Excerpts from Egypt wonders if army chief is another Nasser, Martin Chulov in Cairo, The Guardian, Wednesday 7 August 2013 at theguardian.com)

THE FREE PRESS

If we want to know what to think of a fire which has taken place many miles away, but which affects property of our own, we listen to the accounts of dozens of men. We rapidly and instinctively differentiate between these accounts according to the characters of the witnesses. Equally instinctively, we counter-test these accounts by the inherent probabilities of the situation.
An honest and sober man tells us that the roof of the house fell in. An imaginative fool, who is also a swindler, assures us that he later saw the roof standing. We remember that the roof was of iron girders covered with wood, and draw this conclusion: That the framework still stands, but that the healing fell through in a mass of blazing rubbish. Our common sense and our knowledge of the situation incline us rather to the bad than to the good witness, and we are right. A man has seen a thing; many men have seen a thing. They testify to that thing, and others who have heard them repeat their testimony.
When people talked of the newspaper owners as “representing public opinion” there was a shadow of reality in such talk, absurd as it seems to us to-day. Though the doctrine that newspapers are “organs of public opinion” was (like most nineteenth century so-called “Liberal” doctrines) falsely stated and hypocritical, it had that element of truth about it—at least, in the earlier phase of newspaper development. There is even a certain savor of truth hanging about it to this day.
The Free Press gives you the truth; but only in disjointed sections, for it is disparate and it is particularistic: it is marked with isolation—and it is so marked because its origin lay in various and most diverse propaganda.
For long the owner of a newspaper had for the most part been content to regard it as a revenue-producing thing. The editor was supreme in matters of culture and opinion. True, the editor, being revocable and poor, could not pretend to full political power. But it was a sort of dual arrangement which yet modified the power of the vulgar owner. The editor became (and now is) a mere mouthpiece of the proprietor. Editors succeed each other rapidly. Of great papers to-day the editor’s name of the moment is hardly known—but not a Cabinet Minister that could not pass an examination in the life, vices, vulnerability, fortune, investments and favors of the owner.
Men owning the chief newspapers could be heard boasting of their power in public, as an admitted thing; and as this power was recognized, and as it grew with time and experiment, it bred a reaction. The sheer necessity of getting certain truths told, which these powerful but hidden fellows refused to tell, was a force working at high potential and almost compelling the production of Free Papers side by side with the big Official ones. That is why you nearly always find the Free Press directed by men of intelligence and cultivation—of exceptional intelligence and cultivation. And that is where it contrasts most with its opponents.
It is humiliating enough to be thus governed through a sort of play-acting instead of enjoying the self-government of free men. It is worse far to be governed by a clique of Professional Politicians bamboozling the multitude with pretence of “Democracy.” Men had for some time made it a normal thing to read their daily paper; to believe what it told them to be facts, and even in a great measure to accept its opinion. A new voice criticizing by implication, or directly blaming or ridiculing a habit so formed, was necessarily an unpopular voice with the mass of readers, or, if it was not unpopular, that was only because it was negligible.
There are some men who will read anything, however much they differ from its tone and standpoint, in order to obtain more knowledge. The Free Press is rigorously boycotted by the great advertisers, partly, perhaps, because its small circulation renders them contemptuous (because nearly all of them are of the true wooden-headed “business” type that go in herds and never see for themselves where their goods will find the best market); but much more from frank enmity against the existence of any Free Press at all. We must remember that the professional politicians all stand in together when a financial swindle is being carried out. There is no “opposition” in these things. Since it is the very business of the Free Press to expose the falsehood or inanity of the Official Press, one may truly say that a great part of the energies of the Free Press is wasted in this “groping in the dark” to which it is condemned. At the same time, the Economic difficulty prevents the Free Press from paying for information difficult to be obtained, and under these twin disabilities it remains heavily handicapped.
So long as the lawyers support the politicians you have no redress, and only in case of independent action by the lawyers against the politicians, with whom they have come to be so closely identified, have you any opportunity for discussion and free trial. The old idea of the lawyer on the Bench protecting the subject against the arbitrary power of the executive, of the judge independent of the government, has nearly disappeared.
You may, of course, commit any crime with impunity if the professional politicians among the lawyers refuse to prosecute. But that is only a negative evil. More serious is the positive side of the affair: that you may conversely be put at the risk of any penalty if they desire to put you at that risk; for the modern secret police being ubiquitous and privileged, their opponent can be decoyed into peril at the will of those who govern, even where the politicians dare not prosecute him for exposing corruption.
Once the citizen has been put at this peril—that is, brought into court before the lawyers—whether it shall lead to his actual ruin or no is again in the hands of members of the legal guild; the judge may (it has happened), withstand the politicians (by whom he was made, to whom he often belongs, and upon whom his general position to-day depends). He may stand out or— as nearly always now—he will identify himself with the political system and act as its mouthpiece. It is the prevalence of this last attitude which so powerfully affects the position of the Free Press.
Now, it is evident that, of all forms of civic activity, writing upon the Free Press most directly challenges this arbitrary power. There is not an editor responsible for the management of any Free Paper who will not tell you that a thousand times he has had to consider whether it were possible to tell a particular truth, however important that truth might be. And the fear which restrains him is the fear of destruction which the combination of the professional politician and lawyer holds in its hand. There is not one such editor who could not bear witness to the numerous occasions on which he had, however courageous he might be, to forgo the telling of a truth which was of vital value, because its publication would involve the destruction of the paper he precariously controlled. There is no need to labor all this. The loss of freedom we have gradually suffered is quite familiar to all of us, and it is among the worst of all the mortal symptoms with which our society is affected.
The first thing to note is that the Free Press is not read perfunctorily, but with close attention. The audience it has, if small, is an audience which never misses its pronouncements whether it agrees or disagrees with them, and which is absorbed in its opinions, its statement of fact and its arguments.
Look narrowly at History and you will find that all great reforms have started thus: not through a widespread control acting downwards, but through spontaneous energy, local and intensive, acting upwards. You cannot say this of the Official Press, for the simple reason that the Official Press is only of real political interest on rare and brief occasions. It is read of course, by a thousand times more people than those who read the Free Press. But its readers are not gripped by it. They are not, save upon the rare occasions of a particular “scoop” or “boom,” informed by it, in the old sense of that pregnant word, informed:—they are not possessed, filled, changed, molded to new action. One of the proofs of this—a curious, a comic, but a most conclusive proof—is the dependence of the great daily papers on the headline. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred retain this and nothing more, because the matter below is but a flaccid expansion of the headline. Now the Headline suggests, of course, a fact (or falsehood) with momentary power. So does the Poster. But the mere fact of dependence on such methods is a proof of the inherent weakness underlying it.
You have, then, at the outset a difference of quality in the reading and in the effect of the reading. The Free Press is really read and digested. The Official Press is not. Its scream is heard, but it provides no food for the mind. One does not contrast the exiguity of a pint of nitric acid in an engraver’s studio with the hundreds of gallons of water in the cisterns of his house. No amount of water would bite into the copper. Only the acid does that: and a little of the acid is enough.
The man who tells the truth when his colleagues around him are lying, always enjoys a certain restricted power of prophecy. If there were a general conspiracy to maintain the falsehood that all peers were over six foot high, a man desiring to correct this falsehood would be perfectly safe if he were to say: “I do not know whether the next peer you meet will be over six foot or not, but I am pretty safe in prophesying that you will find, among the next dozen three or four peers less than six foot high.”
If there were a general conspiracy to pretend that people with incomes above the income-tax level never cheated one in a bargain, one could not say “on such-and-such a day you will be cheated in a bargain by such-and-such a person, whose income will be above the income-tax level,” but one could say; “Note the people who swindle you in the next five years, and I will prophesy that some of the number will be people paying income-tax.”
This power of prophecy, which is an adjunct of truth telling, affects people very profoundly. It will succeed at last in getting the truth told pretty openly and pretty thoroughly. It will break down the barrier between the little governing clique in which the truth is cynically admitted and the bulk of educated men and women who cannot get the truth by word of mouth but depend upon the printed word.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Free Press, by Hilaire Belloc)

A MAN’S VALUE TO SOCIETY

A journey through life is like a journey along the track way of a retreating army; here a valuable ammunition wagon is abandoned because a careless smith left a flaw in the tire; there a brass cannon is deserted because a tug was improperly stitched; yonder a brave soldier lies dying in the thicket where he fell because excited men forgot the use of an ambulance. Life’s chief destructions are in the city of man’s soul.
Men differ, of course, in ways many—they differ in the number and range of their affections, in the scope of conscience, in taste and imagination, and in moral energy. But the original point of variance is physical. Some have a small body and a powerful mind, like a Corliss engine in a tiny boat, whose frail structure will soon be racked to pieces. Others are born with large bodies and very little mind, as if a toy engine were set to run a mud scow. This means that the poor engineer must pole up stream all his life. Others, by ignorance of parent, or accident through nurse, or through their own blunder or sin, destroy their bodily capital. Soon they are like boats cast high and dry upon the beach, doomed to sun-cracking and decay.
Man begins at zero. The child thrusts his finger into the fire and is burned; thenceforth he learns to restrain himself in the presence of fire, and makes the flames smite the vapor for driving train or ship. The child errs in handling the sharp tool, and cuts himself; thenceforth he lifts up the axe upon the tree. The child mistakes the weight of stone, or the height of stair, and, falling, hard knocks teach him the nature and use of gravity. Daily the thorns that pierce his feet drive him back into the smooth pathway of nature’s laws. The sharp pains that follow each excess teach him the pleasures of sound and right living. Nor is there one infraction of law that is not followed by pain. As sharp guards are placed at the side of the bridge over the chasm to hold men back from the abyss, so nature’s laws are planted on either side of the way of life to prick and scourge erring feet back into the divine way.
Temptation is another teacher. Protection gives innocence, but practice gives virtue. Scientists say that the glowworm keeps its enemies at bay by the brightness of its own light. Man, by his love of truth and right, becomes his own castle and fortress. Cities no longer depend upon night-watchmen to guard against marauders and burglars. Men trusted to safes and iron bars upon the windows. Now bankers ask electric lights to guard their treasure vaults.
Life’s teacher also includes newness and zest. First, man lives his life in fresh personal experiences. Then, by observation, he repeats his life in the career of his children. A third time he journeys around the circle, re-experiencing life in that of his grandchildren. Then, because the newness has passed away and events no longer stimulate his mind, death withdraws man from the scene and enters him in a new school. Vast is the educational value therefore attaching to the newness of life. Thus, each new day is a new continent to be explored. Each youth is a new creature, full of delightful and mysterious possibilities. Each brain comes clothed with its own secret, having its own orbit, attaining its own unique experience. Ours is a world in which each individual, each country, each age, each day, has a history peculiarly its own. This newness is a perpetual stimulant to curiosity and study. For some, once a picture or book has been seen, the pleasure ceases. Delight dies with familiarity. Such persons look back to the days of childhood as to the days of wonder and happiness. But the man of real vision ever beholds each rock, each herb and flower with the big eyes of children, and with a mind of perpetual wonder. For him the seed is a fountain gushing with new delights. By a strange paradox men are taught by monotony as well as by newness.
History tells of a thousand men who have maintained virtue in adversity only to go down in hours of prosperity. That is, man is stimulated by the crisis; conflict provokes heroism, persecution lends strength. But, denied the exigency of a great trial, men who seemed grand fall all to pieces. Triumphant in adversity, men are vanquished by drudgery. Life’s crowning victory belongs to those who have won no brilliant battle, suffered no crushing wrong; who have figured in no great drama, whose sphere was obscure, but who have loved great principles midst small duties, nourished sublime hopes amid vulgar cares, and illustrated eternal principles in trifles.
Man learns to swim by being tossed into life’s maelstrom and left to make his way ashore. No youth can learn to sail his life-craft in a lake sequestered and sheltered from all storms, where other vessels never come. Skill comes through sailing one’s craft amidst rocks and bars and opposing fleets, amidst storms and whirls and counter currents. English literature has a proverb about the incapacity of rich men’s sons. The rich man himself became mighty because he began in poverty, had no hand to help him forward, and many hands to hold him back. After long wrestling with opposing force he compacted within himself the strength and foresight, the frugality and wisdom of a score of ordinary men. The school of hard knocks made him a man of might. But his son, cradled in a soft nest, sheltered from every harsh wind, loving ease more than industry, is in danger of coming up without insight into the secrets of his profession or industry.
The extremes and contrasts of life do much to shape character. Ours is a world that moves from light to dark, from heat to cold, from summer to winter. On the crest to-day, the hero is in the trough to-morrow. During man’s few years, and brief, he experiences many reverses. He flits on between light and dark. It is hard for the leader to drop back into the ranks. It is not easy for him who hath led a movement to its success to see his laurels fall leaf by leaf. After long and dangerous service men grown old and gray are succeeded by the youth to whom society owes no debt. Thus man journeys from strength to invalidism, from prosperity to adversity, from joy to sorrow, or goes from misery to happiness, from defeat to victory. When men combine gold and goodness, greatness and godliness, genius and graces, human nature is at its best
The measure of strength in any living thing is its highest faculty. The strength of the deer is swiftness, of lion strength; but to the power of the foot the eagle adds wings, and therefore is praised for its swift flight. To the wing the bee adds genius for building with geometric skill, and its praise lies in its rare intelligence. Thus man also is to be measured by his highest faculty, in that he has power to see things unseen and work in realms invisible.
The soul is like a lost child. It wanders a stranger in a strange land. Full of it is heartsick, for even the best things content it for but a little while. The soul is a city, and as Thebes had many gateways through which passed great caravans laden with goodly treasure, so the five senses are gateways through which journey all earth’s sights and sounds. Therefore man loves and guards the physical house in which he lives. The heart, going forward, leaves behind some treasure, and perfumes its path. Memory hangs upon the tree the whispered confession made beneath its branches. No palace so memorable as the little house where you were reared, no charter oak so historic as the trees under which you played, no river Nile so notable as the little brook that once sung to your sighing, no volume or manuscript so precious as the letter.
The mind loves truth, and the body tempts man to break truth. The soul loves honor, and passion tempts it to deflect its pathway. Man goes forth in the morning with all the springs of generosity open; but before night selfishness has dammed up the hidden springs.
In the morning man goes out with love irradiating his face; he comes back at night sullen and black with hatred and enmity. In the morning the soul is like a young soldier, parading in stainless white; at night his garments are begrimed and soiled with self-indulgence and sin. As there is a line along the tropics where two zones meet and breed perpetual storm, so there is a middle line in man where the animal man meets the spiritual man, and there is perpetual storm. There clouds never pass away, and the thunder never dies out of the horizon of time.
Hunger compels men to ask what food is in the river, what roots are in the ground, what fruits are on the trees, what forces are in the air. The body is peremptory in its demands. Hunger carries a stinging scourge. Necessity drives out the evil spirits of indolence and torpidity. The early man threading the thickets in search of food chanced upon a sweet plum, and because the bush grew a long way from his lodge he transplanted the root to a vale near his home. Thence came all man’s orchards and vineyards.
Shivering with cold, man sought out some sheltered cave or hollow tree. But soon the body asked him to hew out a second cave in addition to the one nature had provided. Fulfilling its requests, man went on in the interests of his body to pile stone on stone, and lift up carved pillars and groined arches. Thence came all homes.
Material life and civilization may be said to literally rest upon man’s bones and sinews. Mental brightness gives facial illumination. The right act or true thought sets its stamp of beauty in the features; the wrong act or foul thought sets its seal of distortion. Moral purity and sweetness refine and beautify the countenance. The body is a show window, advertising and exhibiting the soul’s stock of goods. Nature condenses bough, bud and shrub into black coal, compacts the rich forces of air and sun and soil into peach and pear.
In the kingdom of morals, there are people who seem to be of virtue, truth and goodness all compact. Contrariwise, every day you will meet men upon our streets who are solid bestiality and villainy done up in flesh and skin. Each feature is as eloquent of rascality as an ape’s of idiocy. Experts skilled in physiognomy need no confession from impish lips, but read the life-history from page to page written on features “dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, branded by remorse; the body consumed with sloth and dishonored with selfish uses; the bones full of the sins of youth, the face hideous with secret vices, the roots dried up beneath and the branches cut off above.
It is as natural and necessary for hidden thoughts and deeds to reveal themselves through cuticle as for root or bud in spring to unroll themselves into sight and observation. Here and now everything tends to obscure nature’s handwriting and to veil it in mist and disguise. Most men are better than we think, but some men are worse. As steam in the boiler makes itself known by hisses and so the evil imaginings heave and strain, seeking escape.
Many forbear vice and crime through fear; their conscience is cowardice; if they dared they would riot through life like the beasts of the field; if all their inner imaginings were to take an outward expression in deeds, they would be scourges, plagues and pests. In the silence of the soul they commit every vice. But they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind; the revealing day will come when the films of life shall be withdrawn, and the character shall appear faithful as a portrait, and then all the meanness and sliminess shall be seen to have given something to the soul’s picture.
All the majesty of the summer, all the glory of the storms, all the beauty of galleries, is as nothing compared to the majesty and beauty of a full-orbed and symmetrical manhood. Man’s history has been a history of selfishness and sin, and his body bears the marks thereof. His features are “seamed by sickness, dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, pinched by poverty, shadowed by sorrow, branded by remorse.
Men’s bodies are consumed by sloth, broken down by labor, tortured by disease, dishonored by foul uses, until beholding the “marks” of character in the natural face in a glass multitudes would fain forget what manner of men they are. For the human face is a canvas and nature’s writing goes ever on.
Men are anxious to be scholars and hurry along a pathway that leads straight to the grave. Men are anxious to find pleasure, but they find the flowers were grown in the yard. Men are feverishly anxious for wealth, and, coining all time and strength into gold, they find they have no health with which to enjoy the gathered sweetness. Haste in cooking the dinner has destroyed the appetite. We are told that “moderation and poise are the secrets of all successful art,” as they are of all successful life. Give the rein to appetite and passion, and satiety, disenchantment, and the grave quickly come.
(Adapted from Project Gutenberg’s A Man’s Value to Society, by Newell Dwight Hillis)

IT IS THE METHOD OF THE TABOO, AS NAIVE AS BARBARISM, AS ANCIENT AS HUMAN FAILURE

If you stare at a checkerboard you can see it as black on red, or red on black, as series of horizontal, vertical or diagonal steps which recede or protrude. The longer you look the more patterns you can trace, and the more certain it becomes that there is no single way of looking at the board and so is with political issues. There is no obvious cleavage which everyone recognizes. Many patterns appear in the national life. The “progressives” say the issue is between “Privilege” and the “People”; the Socialists that it is between the “working class” and the “master class.” An apologist for dynamite once said that society was divided into the weak and the strong, and there are people who draw a line between Philistia and Bohemia.
The most incisive comment on politics to-day is indifference. When men and women begin to feel that elections and legislatures do not matter very much, that politics is a rather distant and unimportant exercise, the reformer might as well put to himself a few searching doubts. Indifference is a criticism that cuts beneath oppositions and wrangling by calling the political method itself into question. Leaders in public affairs recognize this. They know that no attack is as disastrous as silence that no invective is so blasting as the wise and indulgent smile of the people who do not care. Eager to believe that all the world is as interested as they are, there comes a time when even the reformer is compelled to face the fairly widespread suspicion of the average man that politics is an exhibition in which there is much ado about nothing. But such moments of illumination are rare. Whoever has been granted such a moment of insight knows how exquisitely painful it is. To conquer it men turn generally to their ancient comforter, self-deception: they complain about the stolid, inert masses and the apathy of the people. In a more confidential tone they will tell you that the ordinary citizen is a “hopelessly private person.”
Now if one half of the people is bent upon proving how wicked a man is and the other half is determined to show how good he is, neither half will think very much about the nation. An innocent paragraph in the New York Evening Post for August 27, 1912, gives the whole performance away. It shows as clearly as words could how disastrous the good-and-bad-man theory is to political thinking.
If politics is merely a guerilla war between the bribed and the unbribed, then statecraft is not a human service but a moral testing ground. It is a public amusement, a melodrama of real life, in which a few conspicuous characters are tried, and it resembles nothing so much as schoolboy hazing which we are told exists for the high purpose of detecting a “yellow streak.” But even though we desired it there would be no way of establishing any clear-cut difference in politics between the angels and the imps. The angels are largely self-appointed, being somewhat more sensitive to other people’s tar than their own.
But if the issue is not between honesty and dishonesty, where is it?
With nothing we are for and nothing to oppose, we are merely neutral. This cleavage in public affairs is the most important choice we are called upon to make. In large measure it determines the rest of our thinking. Now some issues are fertile; some are not. Some lead to spacious results; others are blind alleys. With this in mind, the distinction most worth emphasizing to-day is between those who regard government as a routine to be administered and those who regard it as a problem to be solved.
The man who will follow precedent, but never create one, is merely an obvious example of the routineer. You find him desperately numerous in the civil service, in the official bureaus. To him government is something given as unconditionally, as absolutely as ocean or hill. He goes on winding the tape that he finds. His imagination has rarely extricated itself from under the administrative machine to gain any sense of what a human, temporary contraption the whole affair is. What he thinks is the heaven above him is nothing but the roof.
We do not get out of bed in the morning because we are eager for the day; something external–we often call it our duty–throws off the bed-clothes, complains that the shaving water isn’t hot, puts us into the subway and lands us at our office in season for punching the time-check. We revolve with the business for three or four hours, signing letters, answering telephones, checking up lists and perhaps towards twelve o’clock the prospect of lunch puts a touch of romance upon life. Then because our days are so unutterably the same, we turn to the newspapers, we go to the magazines and read only the “stuff with punch,” we seek out a “show” and drive serious playwrights into the poorhouse. “You can go through contemporary life,” writes Wells, “fudging and evading, indulging and slacking, never really hungry nor frightened nor passionately stirred, your highest moment a mere sentimental orgasm, and your first real contact with primary and elementary necessities the sweat of your death-bed.”
The world grinds on: we are a fly on the wheel. That sense of an impersonal machine going on with endless reiteration is an experience that imaginative politicians face. Often as not they disguise it under heroic phrases and still louder affirmation, just as most of us hide our cowardly submission to monotony under some word like duty, loyalty, conscience. If you have ever been an office-holder or been close to officials, you must surely have been appalled by the grim way in which committee-meetings, verbose reports, flamboyant speeches, requests, and delegations hold the statesman in a mind-destroying grasp. Perhaps this is the reason why it has been necessary to retire leaders from public life every now and then in order to give them a chance to learn something new. Every statesman like every professor should have his sabbatical year.
Democracy has put an unfounded faith in automatic contrivances. Because it left personality out of its speculation, it rested in the empty faith that it had excluded it from reality. But in the actual stress of life these frictions do not survive ten minutes. Public officials do not become political marionettes, though people pretend that they are. When theory runs against the grain of living forces, the result is a deceptive theory of politics.
The invisible government is malign. But the evil doesn’t come from the fact that it plays horse with the Newtonian theory of the constitution. What is dangerous about it is that we do not see it, cannot use it, and are compelled to submit to it. The nature of political power we shall not change. If that is the way human societies organize sovereignty, the sooner we face that fact the better. For the object of democracy is not to imitate the rhythm of the stars but to harness political power to the nation’s need. If corporations and governments have indeed gone on a joy ride the business of reform is not to set up fences, Acts and injunctions into which they can bump, but to take the wheel and to steer.
The corruption of which we hear so much is certainly not accounted for when you have called it dishonesty. It is too widespread for any such glib explanation. When you see how business controls politics, it certainly is not very illuminating to call the successful business men of a nation criminal. Yet all of them violate the law.
It is our desperate adherence to an old method that has produced the confusion of political life. Because we have insisted upon looking at government as a frame and governing as a routine, because in short we have been static in our theories, politics has such an unreal relation to actual conditions. Feckless–that is what our politics is. It is literally eccentric: it has been centered mechanically instead of vitally. We have, it seems, been seduced by a fictitious analogy: we have hoped for machine regularity when we needed human initiative and leadership, when life was crying that its inventive abilities should be freed.
For while statesmen are pottering along doing the same thing year in, year out, putting up the tariff one year and down the next, passing appropriation bills and recodifying laws, the real forces in the country do not stand still. Vast changes, economic and psychological, take place, and these changes demand new guidance. But the routineers are always unprepared. It has become one of the grim trade jokes of innovators that the one thing you can count upon is that the rulers will come to think that they are the apex of human development.
We need a new sense of political values. These times require a different order of thinking. We cannot expect to meet our problems with a few inherited ideas, uncriticised assumptions, a foggy vocabulary, and a machine philosophy. Our political thinking needs the infusion of contemporary insights. The enormous vitality that is regenerating other interests can be brought into the service of politics. Our primary care must be to keep the habits of the mind flexible and adapted to the movement of real life. The only way to control our destiny is to work with it. In politics, at least, we stoop to conquer. There is no use, no heroism, in butting against the inevitable, yet nothing is entirely inevitable. There is always some choice, some opportunity for human direction.
Genuine politics is not an inhuman task. Part of the genuineness is its unpretentious humanity. We are not creating the figure of an ideal statesman out of some inner fancy. That is just the deepest error of our political thinking–to talk of politics without reference to human beings. The creative men appear in public life in spite of the cold blanket the politicians throw over them. Really statesmanlike things are done, inventions are made. But this real achievement comes to us confused, mixed with much that is contradictory. Political inventors are to-day largely unconscious of their purpose, and, so, defenseless against the distraction of their routineer enemies.
Poor bewildered statesmen, unused to any notion of change, have seen the national life grow to a monstrous confusion and sprout monstrous evils by the way. Men and women clamored for remedies, vowed, shouted and insisted that their “official servants” do something–something statesmanlike–to abate so much evident wrong. But their representatives had very little more than a frock coat and a slogan as equipment for the task. Trained to interpret a constitution instead of life, these statesmen faced with historic helplessness the vociferations of ministers, muckrakers, labor leaders, women’s clubs, granges and reformers’ leagues. Out of a tumultuous medley appeared the common theme of public opinion–which the leaders should lead, that the governors should govern.
The trusts had appeared, labor was restless, and vice seemed to be corrupting the vitality of the nation. Statesmen had to do something. Their training was legal and therefore utterly inadequate, but it was all they had. They became panicky and reverted to an ancient superstition. They forbade the existence of evil by law. They made it anathema. They pronounced it damnable. They threatened to club it. They issued a legislative curse, and called upon the district attorney to do the rest. They started out to abolish human instincts, check economic tendencies and repress social changes by laws prohibiting them. They turned to this sanctified ignorance which is rampant in almost any nursery, which presides at family councils, flourishes among “reformers”; which from time immemorial has haunted legislatures and courts. Under the spell of it men try to stop drunkenness by closing the saloons; when poolrooms shock them they call a policeman; if Haywood becomes annoying, they procure an injunction. They meet the evils of dance halls by barricading them; they go forth to battle against vice by raiding brothels and fining prostitutes. For trusts there is an Act. In spite of all experience they cling desperately to these superstitions.
It is the method of the taboo, as naïve as barbarism, as ancient as human failure. There is a law against suicide. It is illegal for a man to kill himself. What it means in practice, of course, is that there is punishment waiting for a man who doesn’t succeed in killing himself. We say to the man who is tired of life that if he bungles we propose to make this world still less attractive by clapping him into jail.
We pass a law against race-track gambling and add to the profits from faro. We raid the faro joints, and drive gambling into the home, where poker and bridge whist are taught to children who follow their parents’ example. We deprive free speech by the heavy hand of a police magistrate, and furnish them with a practical instead of a theoretical argument against government. We answer strikes with bayonets, and make treason one of the rights of man. Everybody knows that when you close the dance halls you fill the parks.
The routineer in a panic turns to the taboo. Whatever does not fit into his rigid little scheme of things must have its head chopped off. Now human nature and the changing social forces it generates are the very material which fit least well into most little schemes of things. A man cannot sleep in his cradle: whatever is useful must in the nature of life become useless. We employ our instruments and abandon them.
But nothing as simply true as that prevails in politics. When a government routine conflicts with the nation’s purposes–the statesman actually makes a virtue of his loyalty to the routine. His practice is to ignore human character and pay no attention to social forces. The shallow presumption is that undomesticated impulses can be obliterated; that world-wide economic inventions can be stamped out by jailing millionaires–and acting in the spirit of Mr. Chesterton’s man Fipps “who went mad and ran about the country with an axe, hacking branches off the trees whenever there were not the same number on both sides.”
The routineer is, of course, the first to decry every radical proposal as “against human nature.” The stand-pat mind has forfeited all right to speak for human nature. It has devoted the centuries to torturing men’s instincts, stamping on them, passing laws against them, lifting its eyebrows at the thought of them–doing everything but trying to understand them. The same people who with daily insistence say that innovators ignore facts are in the absurd predicament of trying to still human want with petty taboos. Social systems like ours, which do not even feed and house men and women, which deny pleasure, cramp play, ban adventure, propose celibacy and grind out monotony, are a clear confession of sterility in statesmanship. And politics, however pretentiously rhetorical about ideals, is irrelevant if the only method it knows is to ostracize the desires it cannot manage.
Suppose that statesmen transferred their reverence from the precedents and mistakes of their ancestors to the human material which they have set out to govern. Suppose they looked mankind in the face and asked themselves what was the result of answering evil with a prohibition. Such an exercise would involve a considerable strain on what reformers call their moral sensibilities.
Human nature is a rather shocking affair if you come to it with ordinary romantic optimism. Certainly the human nature that figures in most political thinking is a wraith that never was–not even in the souls of politicians. “Idealism” creates an abstraction and then shudders at a reality which does not answer to it. Now statesmen who have set out to deal with actual life must deal with actual people. They cannot afford an inclusive pessimism about mankind. Let them have the consistency and good sense to cease bothering about men if men’s desires seem intrinsically evil. Moral judgment about the ultimate quality of character is dangerous to a politician. He is too constantly tempted to call a policeman when he disapproves.
We must study our failures. Gambling and drink, for example, produce much misery. But what reformers have to learn is that men don’t gamble just for the sake of violating the law. They do so because something within them is satisfied by betting or drinking. To erect a ban doesn’t stop the want. It merely prevents its satisfaction. And since this desire for stimulants or taking a chance at a prize is older and far more deeply rooted in the nature of men than love of the Prohibition Party or reverence for laws made at Albany, people will contrive to drink and gamble in spite of the acts of a legislature.
A man may take liquor for a variety of reasons: he may be thirsty; or depressed; or unusually happy; he may want the companionship of a saloon, or he may hope to forget a scolding wife. Perhaps he needs a “bracer” in a weary hunt for a job. Perhaps he has a terrible craving for alcohol. He does not take a drink so that he may become a habitual drunkard, or be locked up in jail, or get into a brawl, or lose his job, or go insane. These are what he might call the unfortunate by-products of his desire. If once he could find something which would do for him what liquor does, without hurting him as liquor does, there would be no problem of drink.
Human nature seems to have wants that must be filled. If nobody else supplies them, the devil will. The demand for pleasure, adventure, and romance has been left to the devil’s catering for so long a time that most people think he inspires the demand. He doesn’t. Our neglect is the devil’s opportunity. What we should use, we let him abuse, and the corruption of the best things, as Hume remarked, produces the worst.
Pleasure in our cities has become tied to lobster palaces, adventure to exalted murderers, romance to silly, mooning novels. Like the flower girl in Galsworthy’s play, we have made a very considerable confusion of the life of joy and the joy of life. The first impulse is to abolish all lobster palaces, melodramas, yellow newspapers, and sentimentally erotic novels. Why not abolish the entire devil’s works? The reformer wonders. The answer is in history. It can’t be done that way. It is impossible to abolish either with a law or an axe the desires of men. It is dangerous, explosively dangerous, to thwart them for any length of time. The Puritans tried to choke the craving for pleasure in early New England. They had no theaters, no dances, and no festivals. They burned witches instead.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Preface to Politics, by Walter Lippmann)