In a recent blog post, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a liberal high Persian political figure with ties to former (reformist) president Khatami, discusses an interesting perspective - that the age of evangelism and conversion is over. He ties in some of the ideas Khatami presented on his recent trip to Harvard - that it is time for a dialogue of civilisations based on mutual respect, and an end to competition. The position is an interesting one - not one, I think, that is supported by text of the Qur'an (and thus likely Bid'ah), but one that might eventually lead to peace (of the armistice kind, perhaps?). I wonder how accurate Abtahi's claims that efforts to convert lead to increased international tensions are. I can buy that they make people feel their religious group is threatened, and that that in turn may lead to problems. Whether that's a large factor compared to other contributors to tension is difficult to measure. Whether it would be possible for people who would place peace over evangelism to reign in evangelists/missionaries (and people like Coulter) in their civilisation is another question entirely.
I'd like to note that in how I consider the present governmental system of Persia, I refuse to assign any disapproval to governmental leaders who took part in the hostage crisis. The Americans (along with the British) abused diplomatic privilege in the nation for many years, from toppling elected leaders to assassinating people hostile to their abusive oil deals. Their captivity both quelled a threat to the state (argument by necessity) and was a form of justice for an institution that had little to do with diplomacy. The greed of American governance of the time in continuing to topple governments until it got one that it felt it could control to suit its business interests, ironically, ended when the dice finally landed on people with the confidence to do what it took to prevent that abuse, with their regime becoming a great enemy of the United States. It's unfortunate that the regime itself is so ugly, or it would be beautiful to watch. An incredible understatement by Madeline Albright on one of the toppled political figures (Mossadegh) sums it up:
"The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons," she said. "But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."
- From an issue of Far Eastern Affairs, I read about a very ugly (sadly, one of many) feature of Stalin's Soviet Union - Vasily Blyukher, a Red Army commander on the Japanese front in WW2, for losing some battles (that, at least according to the article, it would've been very difficult for him to have won given his resources), was arrested for treason along with his family. It's amazing how messed up the series of events that were tied to that campaign were, although that's just another drop in the bucket, I know.
- There was also a political analysis of efforts to revise Japan's constitution on the issue of existence of a regular military. Leftist/Central parties, including the Communist Party of Japan(!), are happy with the current constitution, which prohibits a regular military, and aim to keep it narrowly interpreted, while parties on the right, with strong business support, want to revise the constitution to permit a regular army. I find the strong business support for an increased military interesting, and wonder if this is a kind of nascent military-industrial complex in Japan flexing its muscle or something else. I find the idea of pacifist communism to be interesting as well - presumably their party has an ideology more similar to Eurocommunism than either the third or fourth international.
- I finished Zizek's "Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?". As the book was prone to digression into endless subtopics, I didn't spot the closing (figurative) parentheses and the end of the program - closing it felt like a big LISP program fell out of my interpreter. I'm not sure what next to read of his, but I ordered The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (Amazon didn't stock it, so I got to order it from the UK).
- More issues of "Middle East Journal" and "Far Eastern Affairs"
- I'm nearing the end of the 2nd volume of collected writings of Mao. Two more volumes to go, I think.
- I'm about a third of the way through Jung.
- Salamar the Clown, by Salman Rushdie
- Ehrman's "Lost Christianities"
I'm hoping for more wonderful rain and a bright moon to fall asleep to tonight.