Friday, 27 November 2015

Exotica And Mirrors

We enjoy a work of fiction like a future history series for two contradictory reasons:

(i) exotic settings sharply contrasting with familiar environments;

(ii) reflections of reality in the mirror of fiction, e.g., recognizable kinds of social problems and political conflicts within the exotic settings of Poul Anderson's Solar Commonwealth or Terran Empire.

We can get a taste of (i) by visiting another country or city. Birmingham is not a multi-species community like Anderson's Imhotep (!) but is multi-racial, soon to be majority non-white. In its pedestrianized city center yesterday:

a lone black man preached Christianity;
opposite him, a man with a megaphone preached Islam while his companion distributed religious leaflets;
further down the same street, another Muslim group did a PR job, answering questions and explaining that "jihad" means just wars waged by legitimate governments respecting non-combatants, not mass murder committed by unauthorized fanatics;
stalls sold German food.

My friend has also seen Krishna devotees on the street. A bus bound for "Druids Heath" brought us to Birmingham Buddhist Centre, its building a former synagogue, just as a Sikh courier, identifiable by his turban and kara, delivered a parcel.

We ate in a palatial Indian restaurant with some white waiters and mostly Asian clientele. Apparently, some Indian restaurants in Nottingham promote themselves as authentic Birmingham Indian restaurants!

I have referred to two cuisines and to seven religious traditions; only one, perhaps, originated on this island. We rival the diversity of Anderson's Terran Empire and his Domain of Ythri where, on a vibrant street:

"...a man gaunt and hairy and ragged...stood on a corner and shouted of some obscure salvation..."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), pp. 500-501.

Why obscure? Is it a religion from Terra that we would recognize but that has become obscure in subsequent centuries? Or is it new and alien? Anderson rightly leaves that question unanswered.

We must hope that our future will be as diverse as that of the Terran Empire and not like that of SM Stirling's Draka. I have just received The Stone Dogs, Draka Vol III...

Traveling by train, I continued to read about Alan Moore and disagreed with him about one of his works.

5 comments:

  1. Kaor ,Paul!

    And those Muslims who claimed "...that "jihad" means just wars waged by legitimate governments respecting non-combatants, not mass murder committed by unauthorized fanatics" are quite simply wrong. This claim is not borne out either by what the Koran says or by the actual behavior of many, many Muslims over the centuries. To cite only one example from the early history of the US, American envoys in London who asked the representative of one of the North African Muslim states practicing piracy on non Muslim shipping why that was being done got the response that as non Muslims they were legitimate prey for attack by the "faithful." Which finally led to a fed up President Jefferson waging war on the Barbary Corsairs.

    Nor did Muslim "ghazis" or regular armies show any respect for non-combatants. Pirate attacks and raids by land by Muslims on Christians and other non Muslims were literally innumerable. And they were just as brutal as anything done by the vikings in PA's MOTHER OF KINGS. One thing such raiders sought was SLAVES. And this was being done right to the end of the 19th century (till the Islamic State revived the practice).

    Every thing I have read in or about Muslim theology and history leads me to conclude orthodox Islam has only hostility to all non Muslims. Which does NOT mean I believe all Muslims as PERSONS think or behave like that. It merely means such Muslims are not as CONSISTENT as the fanatics.

    And I'm VERY glad you finally got your copy of S.M. Stirling's THE STONE DOGS. I'm very eager both to know what you think of the book and any possible analogies, homages, allusions, etc., in it referring to the works of Poul Anderson.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    People conserve, reinterpret or reject inherited religious traditions. Conservatives conserve their idea of the tradition but in a changed context. "Reinterpretation" may in fact be rejection. Rejection is influenced by what it rejects. Thus, all three responses involve differing degrees of continuity and change. I think that this applies to every tradition. Followers of the Mosaic Law thankfully no longer stone adulterers.
    You know I like round numbers of posts in a month so I might close November with the current 100 but will be planning what to post next.
    Paul.

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    1. Kaor, Paul!

      But I don't see anything like what you said in your comment's first paragraph happening in any CONVINCING way in Islam. Instead, the fanatics excoriate non fanatical Muslims as backsliding slackers for not honoring or obeying what the Koran, Sharia, hadiths, and authoritative tafsirs says is obligatory on all Muslims. Their weak theological position is why non fanatical Muslims are so helpless or "silent" in the face of the jihadists. So, I regrettably remain pessimistic about the coming century.

      Yes, I'm aware of your fondness for round numbers! That gives you time to read some of Stirling's THE STONE DOGS and to think about what you want to say commenting on it.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    I wanted to convey the history and diversity of Birmingham, including even two kinds of Muslims. "Druids Heath" suggests both druids and heathens so maybe I should have counted eight religious traditions.
    Paul.

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    Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Understood! And Birmingham was also where JRR Tolkien went to school as a boy, at the King Edward VI School. And the Catholic St. Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham was the first Catholic church built after the repeal of the Penal Laws in 1829 meant to be a cathedral.

      Sean

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