I would define the “intellectual dark web” as the confluence and convergence of leaders from classical European enlightenment, hard sciences, technology (including neuroscience, bio-engineering, genetics, artificial intelligence), and east philosophy streams. Among the intellectual dark web’s many members are Dr. Richard Haier, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Weinstein brothers, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Friedman, Maajid Nawaz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku , Dr. VS Ramachandran, Steven Pinker, Armin Navabi, Ali Rizvi, Farhan Qureshi, Peter Beinart, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand. If Steve Jobs were still alive, I would include him among them. They defy easy labels and are high on openness. I hesitate to label others without their permission, but our very own Razib Khan strikes me as a potential leader of the “intellectual dark web”; although I will withdraw this nomination if he wishes. 😉
The web magazine Slate posted a piece, Friends From India which I had initially thought was a parody. Its subtitle is: “I grew up watching the show in Mumbai. I worry about the damage its gender stereotypes still do there.”
It’s really bizarre. The author is Indian, and supposedly is making a comment about India. But the piece isn’t about India at all, but the worries and concerns of a liberal person in the West. Friends isn’t that important in driving social views in India, and gender relations and attitudes toward homosexuality in India have little to do with Friends. But, today Friends seems retrograde to many American liberals, because of its attitude toward gender relations and gayness, which were mainstream in the 1990s.
So it seems here that to get another piece on Friends and social justice into Slate, they just commissioned a piece that was officially about India, but quite obviously wasn’t.
This gets to a major dynamic in American society today which worries me somewhat: foreign affairs being filtered through purely American concerns and perceptions. Americans care so little about the rest of the world that they turn the rest of the world into the United States in substance, if not exterior styles.
The problem is that we are living through a great transition in the world. America is no longer as much the center, and economic, social, and political, power will rebalance toward Asia. In such a multipolar world pandering to purely American preoccupations will lead to gross misunderstandings and likely catastrophe.
Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, our favorite 92 year old PM of Malaysia! Malaysia was one of the centers of the great Arya civilization for thousands of years; now enriched by Confucianism, Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, Islam, and expats the world over. One of the most diverse and immigration friendly countries in the world. One of the most pro business, pro capitalist, pro globalization, pro neo-liberal, pro enlightenment values, and pro moderate Islam countries in the world. A country that fought against the full might of the Soviet Union, China and the global communist block and won. A shining city on a hill. A self assured, self confident Asian Tiger without inferiority complex. One of last great bastions resisting the global post modernist wave.
Semi Lite stuff.
Music of the Gypsies/Baul of India. Any comments on their music/culture and influence in the world.
and the Bauls
Trump is not the first-ever Republican President with right-wing followers. However, he and his Presidency elicit a visceral response from liberals, both in the United States and abroad. This article in Democracy Journal takes a detailed look at why this happened.
“What precisely is it about Trump that drives liberals to these cataclysmic views? The answer has to do as much with liberals as with Trump himself. First, there is the nature of liberal ideology itself, which—because of its peculiar characteristics and internal contradictions—contributes to the present situation. Second, there are psychological factors, the dispositional tendencies of those who are drawn to liberal ideology. These two elements are related because there is a close and reciprocal connection—what Max Weber called an “elective affinity”—between psychological needs on one hand and the philosophical contents of an ideology on the other.”
“A mad social scientist could not have devised a character who is more antithetical to the liberal worldview than Donald Trump—even a staunch conservative with a more disciplined commitment to right-wing ideals. Trump is unique in his ability to provoke, upset, and irritate those with liberal sensibilities. No doubt this is part of his appeal to a certain segment of the population—the ones who have been told since Nixon that “liberal elites” were laughing at them.”
We are now equipped to answer the question: Why does Trump—even more than other conservatives—make liberal brains go haywire? It is because he makes it impossible, in practice, for liberals to be tolerant (egalitarian), rational, and optimistic about human nature—three things that are essential aspects of liberal ideology and liberal psychology. Trump makes it preposterous, in other words, for liberals to be “liberal” in the usual sense.
Like a spoiled, spiteful, indifferent king, he makes no pretense of listening to or representing us—half the nation—in any way. In this respect, he is worse—more personally contemptuous of liberal norms, traditions, and accomplishments—than Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. If Trump were more religious he would resemble a pre-Enlightenment figure; it would be difficult to find a less scientifically informed member of the upper class. And yet the whole country, it seems, is held hostage to his narcissistic wounds, authoritarian rants, and Twitterstorms.
“In a preface to The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich wrote that “‘fascism’ is only the organized political expression of the structure of the average man’s character.” The fact that authoritarian inclinations are so mundane and quotidian means that they are a constant danger—and a constant source of anxiety for the liberal. It would be foolish at this historical moment to suggest that fascism has come to America. It has not. But to many of us, it feels as if we are closer to it than we ever thought possible.”
An interesting article, very pertinent for the current economic mess in the world. Maybe Zachary can weigh in.
Michael about his Forthcoming book Forgive Them Their Debts: Credit and Redemption that comes with an astounding re-reading of the Bible and the true meaning of the life and persecution of Jesus. Based on scholarly breakthroughs in decoding ancient languages, it places a debt cancellation message inherited from Babylonian times at the center of Mosaic law and the Jewish Bible. And when it comes to Jesus, his message is revealed to be a social justice message. Through the lens of this reinterpretation, Jesus was actually an activist advocating for debt cancellation. He died not for the sins of the people but for their debts.
In Sumer, and Babylonia, around 2500 B.C., and every new ruler, when they would take the throne, would start his reign by canceling the debts. In Sumer, the word for that was amargi, in Babylonian the word during Hammurabi’s dynasty was andurarum.
Hebrew deror, is a cognate to Babylonian andurarum, and the Jubilee year was word-for-word exactly the same debt cancellation and freeing of the bond servants and restoration of land that you had occured for 1,000 years in the Near East, and was still occurring in the first millennium BC.
What I realized is that when Luke 4 reports the first speech of Jesus, when he goes to the temple and gives a speech, his first sermon, he unrolls the Scroll of Isaiah, and said he has come to essentially proclaim the Jubilee year …. The word he used, and that Isaiah used, the deror, was this Babylonian, Near Eastern long tradition that was common throughout the whole Near East.
Business debts were not forgiven. The debts that were forgiven were personal debts, agrarian debts, and the idea was to liberate the bond servants so that they could be available to perform the corvée labor, which was the main kind of taxation in the Bronze Age, and serve in the army. If you were a debtor and you were a bond servant to a creditor, you wouldn’t be available for corvée labor, you’d be working (for) the creditor, you wouldn’t be available for the army.
The Romans were the first society not to cancel the debts, and there was civil war over that. A century of civil war from 133 BC, when the Gracchi Brothers were killed by supporting the population, to 29 BC when Augustus was crowned. There was a civil war where the advocates of debt cancellation were put to death. Just as Cleomenes in Sparta, in the late third century, was put to death, and Agis, his predecessor earlier in the third century BC, were put to death for advocating debt cancellation. So there was three centuries of constant civil war over this, and ultimately the creditors won, largely by political assassination of the advocates of debt cancellation, who almost all came from the upper class. They were upper class reformers, they were not lower-class particularly. They were the scholars, just as Jesus was a rabbi.
Most debts did not occur from lending money. It’s easier today to figure if you have a debt, you must have borrowed it. But three quarters of the debts in Babylonia, for instance, where we have records because they were on clay, cuneiform records that were baked and have survived, most debts were simply unpaid bills. The debts were unpaid taxes, unpaid debts, unpaid rent, and unpaid obligation for services that had been supplied.
And so Judaism took the debt cancellation out of the hand of kings, where it had been in the Near East, and put in the very center of their religion. In Leviticus 25, again and again the prophets would say, “We’ve freed you from bondage, and if you’re going to maintain Judaism, you have to respect the debt cancellation.” And the Biblical prophets warned, if you don’t cancel the debts, you’re gonna be canceled. By Assyria, by Babylonia. And they blamed the capture and destruction of Judea and Israel on the fact that they had veered away from the law of God and did not cancel the debts.
Tribes: When does the concept of a general debt cancellation disappear historically?
Michael: I guess in about the second or third century AD, that was downplayed in the Bible. And you had, after Jesus died, you had first of all St Paul taking over, and basically Christianity was created by one of the most evil men in history, the anti-Semite Cyril of Alexandria. Who decided to gain power by murdering his rivals, the Nestorians, by convening a congress of bishops and killing all of his enemies. Cyril was really the Stalin figure of Christianity, killing everybody who was an enemy, organizing pogroms against the Jews in Alexandria where he ruled.
And it was Cyril that really introduced into Christianity the whole idea of the Trinity. That’s what the whole fight was about in the third and fourth centuries AD. Was Jesus a human, was he a god? And essentially you had the Isis-Osiris, ISIS figure from Egypt, put into Christianity … The Christians were still trying to drive the Jews out of Christianity. And Cyril knew the one thing the Jewish population were not going to accept would be the Isis figure and the Mariolatry that the church became. And as soon as the Christian church became the establishment rulership church, the last thing it wanted in the West was debt cancellation.
Tribes: Has any modern society declared a Jubilee without a revolt of the creditor class?
Michael: Yes. There was a wonderful debt cancellation, the major debt cancellation of the modern era was in 1947 and 48, the German monetary reform, called the German economic miracle. The Allies canceled all German debts, except for debts owed by employers to their employees for the previous month, and except for minimum bank balances. It was easy for the Allies to cancel the debts, because in Germany most of the debts were owed to people who had been Nazis, and you were canceling the debts owed to the Nazis, the Nazis were the creditors at that time. And that freeing Germany from debt was the root of its economic miracle. So that is the prime example of a debt cancellation in modern times that worked.
Recently saw a music video by Bi Kidude (Little Granny) from Zanzibar. I was struck by the similarities to Sri Lankan Kaffiringha or Manja music and old traditional music as in Panama Vannam and Yak (as in Yakkha) Thovil. (Panama is pronounced Paanaama, its a small village on the SE coast at the edges of the jungle).
Bi Kidude (Little Granny)
Fatma Baraka Khamis was Taarab singer from Zanzibar who was born around 1910. Bi Kidude won several awards including a WOMEX
Award for her role in the culture of the Zanzibar Island. The iconic artist sadly passed away on April 17th, 2013. She very well might have been a century old. (see more here and video documentary“As old as my tongue – The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude” by director Andy Jones). In Bi Kidude’s words, I smoke, drink and sing. Not bad for a life to a hundred years.
Manja Music of Sri Lanka
Its the music of the Kaffirs (not a derogatory word in Sri Lanka). They were brought mainly by the Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique. The Tabbowa/Sirambiadi community in the west coast is a mix of African descendants and Sinhalese. Their music is now very much part of the Sri Lankan tradition. Below the group Ceylon African Manja performing in their village. This is youtube clip of the same group in a more formal setting.
Portuguese Burgers (Creoles) of Batticoloa (East Coast)
The Portuguese Burgers too sing and dance Kaffiringha music. Its is unknown if they have African roots.
Sri Lankan Traditional Music
A gravel voice and rhythms (as against melody) define traditional music. Immediate below women playing the rabane, a instrument played by women at village events, specially Sinhalese New Year. This particular video is from a five star hotel !!.
Second below the traditional Gajaba Wannama (dance of the King’s Tuske) with a modern dance ensemble. More Wannamas here.
Unheard of a couple of decades back, upper middle class girls/women playing the drums, or for that matter a traditional instruments. Now we have and all girl/women traditional drumming (watch it is good, their website http://www.thuryaa.lk/). The times are a changing.
note: Traditionally (at least the last century) dance for festivals, processions (perahera, eg. the Kandy Perahera) was done almost exclusively by men. One rarely saw women dancing, unless it was associated with Hindu Kavadi also part of the Perahera procession
This article is a continuation of previous articles on ancient history from Zachary, Razib, Omar and myself: