I saw Omar Ali yesterday — terrific conversation — and when I asked what topics I should discuss here, he suggested I post whatever interests me — so here’s the anointing of Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong.
Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.
Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro —
For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.
It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.
“This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students.
The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —
The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.
“As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.
The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.
Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.
I was senior analyst in a small and wonderfully eccentric DC Beltway think tank a while back, and my boss kept asking me for what he called “early indicators” of upcoming troubles. The trouble was, I never saw an “indicator” as such — I only ever saw “indicators” plural. It takes two to tango, they say, and from my POV it takes two to make a pattern.
My HipBone Games began as an attempt to make Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game playable, preferably on a paper napkin in a sidewalk cafe, so I began with boards like my WaterBird —
— with ten moves, ten concepts arrayed in such a way that players or later readers could see ten richly interconnected concepts in one place — concepts that might be textual, musical, mathematical, visual, filmic — if we’d known how to convey smells via the internet, I’d have included those, too..
And over time, I discovered the obvious — that the fundamental game move involved two concepts, with one bridging link between them. So that’s the fundamental way to learn to play the HipBone Games. Over time, I’ve come to rely more and more on this simplest of HipBone Games, the DoubleQuote:
— leaving the larger HipBone Gameboards — the 8-move Dart board on up to the 120-odd Said Symphony board, dedicated to, you may have guessed it, Edward Said, and available for possible competition games and solo symphonies.
What’s a concept, you might ask — what constitutes a move?
I might use a different definition if I were taking about anything other than the Bead Game, but in this context, a concept is a rich idea — an idea with rich possibilities for association. Let me take a paragraph from a New Yorker piece as an example:
Melissa and Ashley, identical twins from Georgia, shared a bedroom while growing up. They had the same best friend, took classes together in high school, and dreamed of becoming artists in their own collective. “We’re like two different people with one brain,” Melissa liked to say.
The article in question is titled An Underground College for Undocumented Immigrants — so there’s room associations with the underground railroad perhaps, another situation where the official system repressed a minority, and that minority found ways to circumvent the system.
I’ve chosen this example, in fact, because it offers numerous associative possibilities — to other ideas, narratives, or statistical finds about twins, to other New Yorker articles, to underground movie theaters or catacombs, to those who dream of becoming artists — and in particular for my purposes here, because it’s about two people who think, almost as if they are one.
In fact, to emphasis this notion of unity and harmony, I might simply chose this statement for the first position in my DoubleQuote::
We’re like two different people with one brain
Let’s use a musical analogy, and say the two of them think in close harmony, or, since there are two of them, that thinking together, they constitute a duet..
The opposite of harmony,in which many notes played simultaneously form a chord, is counterpoint, in which differing melodic lines move between discord and resolution — harmony a “vertical” matter, synchronic, while counterpoint is “horizontal” and diachronic —
— and the opposite of a duet is a duel.
The two friends in Don DeLillo’s New Yorker piece, Midnight in Dostoevsky like to keep their minds at opposite poles from each other. As one of the two reports:
He liked to test himself on what he knew. He liked to stop walking to emphasize a point as I walked on. This was my counterpoint, to let him stand there talking to a tree. The shallower our arguments, the more intense we became.
I wanted to keep this one going, to stay in control, to press him hard. Did it matter what I said?
The actual phrase I’d place in juxtaposition to the first paragraph above might come from a discussion of whether the old man walking in front of them that day was wearing an anorak or a parka —
It was our routine; we were ever ready to find a matter to contest.
Again, the context — the article itself — is rich in associative potentials, with parkas, anoraks, Inuits, linguistics, life in the arctic circle, the whole idea of North — on which the pianist Glenn Gould wrote an entire radio opera —
— and note that Gould is himself a master of counterpoint, specializing in the work of JS Bach, and called his radio opera technique “contrapuntal radio” —
“This was counterpoint” — the opposite of harmony, and full of both conflict and resolution, with phrases isolated and overlapping, paused and repeated, denial and occasional agreement and renewed denial — a duel, not by any means a duet.
And yet each of our two excerpts describes the conversations of two close friends, the one emphasizing unity, the other diversity. And it is in the similarities and differences between the two conversation — between duel and duet — that the two concepts link to become a single move.
Having given that extended example, let me present a few more DoubleQuotes, in their positions on the board — with minimal explanations:
Some of them are made of names or phrases so simple, they fit on a mini-version of the board:
Some bring Shakespeare to bear on current events — in this case, Saudi Crown Prince MBS and the Khashoggi murder:
Some showing similarities in different materials:
Some making historical comparisons — this one’s in an earlier version of the same board —
or opposite opinions and creative practices of two of the world’s most distinguished physicists:
or — and this is my personal favorite, crossing as it does the great disciplinary boundary — between CP Snow’s Two Cultures — between art and science:
But either I’ve been very unclear, or you get the idea.
Here’s the blank DoubleQuotes board again, for you to download and drop your own examples into.
At gmail I’m hipbonegamer — feel free to send me your own, with any explanation you feel like making, and in a later post I’ll put them up here.
Please watch this short excerpt from a conversation between my main man in the house Veedu Vidz and Shaykh Shabbir Ally.
Veedu Vidz is one of Hindustan’s brightest sons, hottest heart throbs, most talented thesbians, funniest comedians, most enlightened leaders, wisest Islamic theologians and Brown Pundit favorites. He now lives in the UK with his beautiful wife and youtube sensation Mimzy Vidz. Shaykh Shabbir Ally is also one of Hindustan’s greatest lights. He is one of the world’s leading Murdhids or Islamic scholars.
This post is aimed at not so bright nonmuslims who back Islamist extremists against reasonable muslims (such as Shaykh Shabbir Ally) and muslimish leaders (such as Veedu Vidz and the ever elegant Mimzy Vidz). Let me summarize the wise Shaykh Shabbir Ally for you:
Blasphemy and apostasy laws (such as those that require the recitation of pbuh after the name of the holy prophet, or don’t allow visual depictions of the holy prophet pbuh) are unislamic and should be ended.
The holy Koran is consistent with freedom of religion, art, thought and speech.
Mohammed pbuh use to follow Jewish law in absence of specific divine guidance since Mohammed pbuh considered Jewish law to be divinely ordained and better than nothing. Many of the Hadiths show Mohammed pbuh following Jewish law and can be discarded.
Mohammed pbuh probably stopped stoning adulterers when the Koran revealed that the punishment for adulterers should be different [and in AnAn’s opinion lighter].
Many Islamist interpretations of the Islamic Shariah jurisprudence are not based on the holy Koran and can be discarded.
I 100% agree with the wise Shaykh about all of this. All global hate speech laws, demonetization of videos, or removal of videos regarding Islam should be ended immediately. All discussion of Islam and criticism of Islam should be allowed. The nonsensical phrase “Islamaphobia” needs to be retired. Muslims are mature enough not to be offended and engage in respectful dialogue. Muslims don’t need to be condescendingly pretentiously patronizingly infantalized or “protected”.
Every muslim in the world is entitled to freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling. Once this happens Muslims and spiritual nonmuslims will automatically engage in dialogue with Islamist jihadi extremists and melt their hearts with the sweetness of love. The fourteen century Islamic civil war will end and the world will sing with joy.
Nonmuslims; first understand . . . then adjust. Please be slightly curious about Islam and learn the slightest bit about Islam before trying to “help” muslims. Please try to transform and improve yourself so that you have the ability to help others. Now you might ask, how can I learn about Islam and muslims? Good question. Right question. Please watch this discussion between six of the world’s leading Islamic theologians (I would rather our very own Brown Pundit resident Murshid Razib Khan was included too but it was not to be):
[Kabir’s note: A nice change from geopolitics and caste]
One of the characteristics of the modern weltanschauung (worldview) is to identify religion as distinct from culture.
Islam, and Islam in Pakistan, doesn’t escape this bifurcation either. One popular example is qawwali.
The recent secularisation of qawwali – the shift away from Sufi dargahs to concert halls and recording labels – has led to a re-imagining of qawwali as expressive of the cultural traditions of Pakistan and (North) India, related only marginally and incidentally to the religion in whose cradle it developed.
Such a secular understanding of qawwali is anachronistic to the pre-modern progenitors of the art form.
The Chishti order, the most prominent Sufi brotherhood in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, has long celebrated the normativity of qawwali as an expression of divine love. Annemarie Schimmel has noted the phenomenon in the Mystical Dimensions of Islam as “the most widely known expression of mystical life in Islam.” American author Leonard Lewisohn, in his article “The Sacred Music of Islam: Sama in the Persian Sufi Tradition”, points out that qawwali is stressed upon by some South Asian Sufis not only as legally permissible (halal), but as a required religious practice (wajib).
Inherent religious pluralism
Qawwali also has a long history of engaging with multiple religious traditions. The religious landscape of North India and Pakistan provides a literary context of diverse religious motifs, metaphors and symbols.
Such a pluralistic approach is evident in a representative qawwali, Kanhayya (Krishna), composed by Nawab Sadiq Jung Bahadur Hilm and performed by Abu Muhammad and Fareed Ayaz. The qawwal sings of his love for Krishna and relates a heart-wrenching account of the afflictions he endures through separation with his beloved.
Kahuun kyaa tere bhuulne ke main vaarii Kanhayya yaad hai kuch bhii hamaarii
What can I say, even for your neglect I could give my life. Do you remember me a little, O’ my tormenting Kanhayya!
Radha-Krishna as the archetype of spiritual love is based on the 12th century lyrical epic, Gita Govinda (Love Song of the Dark Lord), composed by the saint-poet Shri Jayadeva of Bengal, and is considered a religious work in the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism.
You can read the rest of the article at the link above.
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. 😉
Some see the intellectual dark web as the primary global resistance to post modernism. I don’t agree. Rather I see them as ideation and intuition leaders thinking different:
For those who like world/ethnic music + Rock. This is the entire movie, just saw clips 10 years ago. Something for all. WWF (wrestling), Child Birth, Travelogue, ethnic and rock music. My favorite clip is at 00:42, the Bauls. Whats with the Afro of the Baul singer. The young Baul kid is Paban Das Baul. He is quite well known in Europe. (YouTube search here). Maki Kazumi in the Baul Clip I posted a few days back is still a Baul performing/evangelizing, monar manush. (Dont understand the words except manush which I assume means man).
I think, just intellectualizing by reading books about the world does not cut it. Travel (wish I could do more) and into the hinterlands. I have crossed the US three times with a tent, in an old Chevy Celebrity (had 160K miles when a Professor (Akira Akubo) gave it to me. Montreal/Toronto to Florida and New Orleans at least 3 times. The Bronx before it became gentrified. Camden/Baltimore. Plus Myanmar backpacking in 2005 when the county just opened.
Vagabunden Karawane: A musical trip through Iran, Afghanistan and India in 1979 (1 hr 28 mins)
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).
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.
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