Sunday, May 20, 2018

On humans and gods

---Nasir Khan

Humans created god by attributing many of their own qualities unto an imaginary 'being'. But they also gave him a bit more than what they themselves were: they made him all-powerful and all-knowing! So are the fictional places that human beings created in their grand fantasies called Paradise, Hell and the Kingdom of God! But they did not create one god; they created hundreds and thousands of gods and goddesses in many old cultures and societies.

But in the early history of humankind, the forces of nature, like thunder, storms, rain, etc., overawed humans. They were not able to explain these powerful and frightening forces of nature that affected them. As a result, they started to do whatever they could to placate them by making occasional sacrifices to them and entreating them for mercy and kindness.

The idea of deities came much later when they developed anthropomorphic ideas relating to deities they came to believe in that were distinct from the earlier worship of the forces of nature.

Since then, the story of gods in various forms and shapes had become a dominant factor in their lives. The movement from the plurality of deities to smaller numbers was gradual. In some cultures, there was further reduction in such numbers, coming down to three, two or only one. They are all part of the history of the evolution of the notions of powerful supernatural or divine beings.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The 17th of May, Norway's National Day

-- Nasir Khan, 17th May 2018

Congratulations to Norway on the 17th of May! 

Gratulerer med dagen!

Today Norway is celebrating its constitution day, commonly called in this country, 'The 17th of May'.

My hearty congratulations to the people of this country on their national day! 

At present, Norway has become a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious country. Despite many social changes, all people living in this beautiful, Nordic country have complete freedom to believe in any religion or reject religions and religious dogmas without any intervention, coercion or discrimination by the state authorities, unlike some countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc., where discrimination and victimization of religious minorities on sectarian grounds is a common norm. The people have also complete freedom to choose any political party they want to without any dictate from any state organ. 

Norway's democratic traditions and its welfare system are a model of a modern egalitarian state.

There is no razzmatazz of military hardware, tanks and missiles or military parades on this occasion. On the other hand, Norwegians' focus is on the joyous participation of school children and young people in the processions to the great happiness of the enthusiastic onlookers who throng the streets of Norway's capital, Oslo. But the celebration of the 17th of May takes place everywhere in this beautiful country.

Hurrah for Norway!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Israeli massacres of Palestinians and the Russian government

Nasir Khan, May 14, 2018 

Russian publisher and writer Mr. Leonid Savin asks, “Why is the Russian Foreign Ministry silent on the murder of dozens of Palestinians by Israel?” To this question, I have no answer. I don’t know how the Russian Government views the Israeli massacre of the Palestinians today. 

But I ask myself, and also other friends of the captive population of Palestine, "Have the present Russian ruling elites ever done anything concrete to side with the struggle of the Palestinians who have continuously been brutalized by the Zionist state of Israel?”

To my knowledge, the answer is, No. The Russian government has done nothing at all in support of the captive population of Palestine. However, some occasional words of sympathy by the Russians have been only window dressing, nothing more. Only a few days ago, prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, was invited by President Putin and his government as a guest of honour on the anniversary of the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. In reality, that was an insult to the memory of millions of the Soviet heroes and heroines who laid down their lives to defeat the Nazi aggressors and save the world the Nazi slavery.

Now the successors of the Soviet Union thought it fit to make Netanyahu a guest of honour on the victory day! The leader of the Zionist state is doing exactly with the Palestinians what the Germans did with the Soviets. But President Putin is honouring that person and his terrorist regime. That is sad, but that is how it is. It is realpolitik in action.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

On Karl Marx's 200th Birthday Anniversary

--Nasir Khan, May 5, 2018

“All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”
― Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the Prussian province of Rhine, and died in London on March 14, 1883, at the age of 65. He was the most influential socialist philosopher and revolutionary thinker, whose ideas have deeply influenced the course of human history and human thought.

His writings cover philosophy, history, political economy, anthropology, social criticism, history, theory of revolutionary practice, and he himself participated in revolutionary activities. When he was a student at the university, he was deeply involved in the Young Hegelian movement. The members of this group in their articles and pamphlets criticized Christian culture. Feuerbach’s materialism was opposed to Hegel's idealism. He reduced Hegel's 'Absolute Spirit' to human 'species being'.

Because of Marx's critical articles in the Rheinische Zeitung, the government closed this paper. He went to Paris in 1843 where he made contacts with French socialist groups and emigre German workers. Here he met Frederick Engels and the two became friends for the rest of their lives. But his stay there was short. He was expelled from Paris in 1844.

After his expulsion from Paris, Marx, along with Engels moved to Brussels, where they lived for three years. After an intensive study of history, he formulated the theory of history commonly known as historical materialism.

In his theory of history, Marx accepted Hegel’s idea that the world develops according to dialectical process. But the two had different ideas about what the dialectic process entails. For Hegel, historical developments take place through the mystical entity called Absolute Spirit. Marx rejected the notion of Absolute Spirit, and said what moved society was not the Absolute Spirit, but man’s relation to matter, of which the most important part was played by the mode of production.

In this way, Marx’s materialism becomes closely related to economics. Human labour shaped society and material conditions determined the superstructures. The part played by labour, not some mystical Absolute Spirit, formed the basis of social life. Marx’s dialectal view of social change is shorn of Hegel’s idealist dialectics. The two stand on different levels and their philosophies of history differ.
For Marx, man working on nature remakes the world and in doing so he also remakes himself by increasing his powers. Marx wrote in the German Ideology, ‘Men have history because they must produce their life.’

Marx went to Paris in 1848 where the revolution first took place and then to Germany. But the failure of the revolutions forced him to seek refuge in London in 1849, where he spent the rest of his life.
He and his family had to face many economic hardships in London. His friend Engels helped him economically and he himself wrote articles as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune for which he was paid reasonably well. But he and his family showed no interest to spend the money frugally, as a result they had unending economic problems.

However, the revolutionary thinker devoted much time to the First International and its annual Congresses. The rest of the time, he spent in the British Museum library collecting material and taking notes and analyzing the material for studies of political economy. In 1867, he published the first volume of Capital, in which he discussed the capitalist mode of production. He explained his views on the labour theory of value, conception of surplus value, accumulation of capital and the ‘so called primitive accumulation’ in the final part of the book. He had completed the volumes II and II in the 1860s, which Engels published after the death of Marx in 1883.

The profound analysis of capital, Marx undertook in the nineteenth century is still relevant to our understanding the global capitalism and the forces that control it. He had shown the tendency of capital under the general law of capitalist accumulation. A few own more wealth, but others have little to live on. A recent Oxfam report says that eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. In the global economy, rich industrialists and producers take advantage of the global workforce that mostly lives in the global South. The abundant cheap labour from the poor countries is used to produce goods that are sold at high prices in the industrialized western countries.

The problem to end the exploitation of the working class people was a core issue for Marx, and his theory to end this exploitation can only take place when a more equitable form of society is created that stands opposed to the accumulation of capital by a few and the poverty or meager existence of the majority. That objective of a human society is not possible under capitalism.

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Thursday, May 03, 2018

What public praise for a philosopher’s ideas leads to

--Nasir Khan

“I never desired to please the rabble. What pleased them, I did not learn; and what I knew was far removed from their understanding.”

— Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BC – 271 BC)

Epicurus was a renowned philosopher and he certainly was aware of the worth of his ideas. In a simple and subtle way, he has also touched our profound longings to be appreciated by others for our mental and intellectual prowess and skills. Some may call it a human trait, some sceptics may call it a human weakness. Let us see what the public approval of one’s ideas, especially those of a philosopher, in reality amount to: That ideas are framed and presented in such a way that they will appeal to the feelings of the maximum number of ordinary people, who, in return, will heap praise on some ‘clever’ guy!

Can a philosopher or thinking person really expect to validate his ideas with the help of popular applause and praise? Epicurus reply was in the negative. So is mine, after having seen how things work in our times!

In fact, the shoddy tricks played on the unwary and simple people (simple people never think they are simple!) are a form of manipulation. In extreme cases that has led to personality cults, from the olden times to the present times, with disastrous consequences. We are still reaping the toxic fruits of our gullibility as common people because those personality cults are still shaping our history. The dead of the ancient and past history still rule us from their graves. We never question them or their motives. We simply idolise them and sing their praises!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The crime of child brides in traditional societies and cultures

Nasir Khan,

In some traditional societies very young girls are given in marriage to older men, sometimes sold to them for money by their parents or other relatives.

But such inhuman dealings for innocent young girls' flesh for sexual exploitation is not confined to the adherents of one particular religion. Pedophiles and child molesters are found in the followers of many religions and in many regions of the world. This bestiality happens all the time. For instance, we should see how the Roman Catholic priests have been abusing children for centuries. This sort of information was suppressed by the Vatican and other high officials of the Church. But now this is no longer a secret.

Child brides are also common in many Asian and African countries. What we should take special notice of the fact that such crimes against baby girls are committed in the name of old traditions and cultures. We should reject all those cultural norms and practices that sanctify and allow the abuse of innocent children.

All such abominable crimes and violations of children's bodies should be brought to the public notice and people mobilised against such barbaric crimes against baby girls and young boys. This task is only for well-informed and humane people, not for wretched reactionaries with their primitive mindset.