America’s Armed forces 

In times of peace by Major General Smedley Butler

 

Our Ideal Never Defensive

Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our fighting one in the near future.

The War Plans Section spends all its time creating blue-prints for the “defense” of this country. This means, f course, vast schemes for foreign invasion and offensive war. The personnel of this division are those whose hides will never be scratched should hostilities occur. Consequently they can devise plans of whatever magnitude they fancy, and against any momentary “enemy.” Nothing troubles them; and, as we shall soon see, such a detail as how their next war is going to be paid for is not even considered.

America’s Armed forces 

In times of peace by Major General Smedley Butler

 

Our Ideal Never Defensive

Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our fighting one in the near future.

The War Plans Section spends all its time creating blue-prints for the “defense” of this country. This means, f course, vast schemes for foreign invasion and offensive war. The personnel of this division are those whose hides will never be scratched should hostilities occur. Consequently they can devise plans of whatever magnitude they fancy, and against any momentary “enemy.” Nothing troubles them; and, as we shall soon see, such a detail as how their next war is going to be paid for is not even considered.

History of African civilizations in

the Nile Valley by Bethwell Ogot, a review.

In my view, this book is not meant for a scholarly audience but beginners in the study of African civilizations. It is quite thin on citations though the gives a selected biography for those who would want to carry out further reading on the subject.

Having said that, we can talk about the few portions of the book I liked.

In chapter 5 on contributions of the Pharaonic Egypt to Human history- cultural contributions he mentions The Dialogue of a pessimist with his soul which I thought is an interesting read and is true today as when it was written. Consider this portion

Spoke to my soul that I might answer what it said:

To whom shall I speak today?

Brothers and sisters are evil and friends today are not worth loving.

Hearts are great with greed and everyone seizes his or her neigh­bor’s goods.

Kindness has passed away and violence is imposed on everyone.

To whom shall I speak today?

People willingly accept evil and goodness is cast to the ground everywhere.

Those who should enrage people by their wrongdoing

make them laugh at their evil deeds.

People plunder and everyone seizes _his or her neighbor’s goods.

To whom shall I speak today?

The one doing wrong is an intimate friend and the brother with whom one used to deal is an enemy.

No one remembers the past and none return the good deed that is done.

Brothers and sisters are evil

and people turn to strangers for righteousness or affection.

To whom shall I speak today?

Faces are empty and all turn their faces from their brothers and sisters.

Chapter 6 where he treats of the Egyptian religious beliefs and the Judeo- Christian heritage. The conclusion one arrives at, though not explicitly stated by the author, is that what is original in the Judeo- Christian religion, if any, is quite minute. That these religions built on the conceptions of the early Egyptians. Parallels abound between what the Egyptians believed and what the followers of the Abrahamic religions believe. He argues that the origins of modern secular must be sought in the beginnings of the Bible’s ancient faith in a radically transcendent god. He writes

Only a religious faith that was radically polemic to the ancient culture of magic and indwelling spirits could have initiated the cultural and psychological and spiritual revolution necessary to cause entire civilizations to reject the gods and spirits men had revered from time immemorial. Only god can overturn the gods for the masses. Without faith in the new god it would have been impossible to dethrone the old gods. Thus secularization is the paradoxical, unintended, long-term consequence of a distinctive kind of religious faith. By privatizing religion, secularization multiplies the number of value systems that can co-exist within a common public realm. Instead of serving as the common inheritance of an entire community, religion becomes a matter of personal choice.

In the next chapter he introduces models that have been employed in the study of ancient Greek philosophy: The Ancient model which acknowledges Egypt as the source/ parent and the Aryan model which seeks to downplay the role of Egypt and thus Africa in Greek civilization.

In chapter 8 where he writes of the transmission of Egyptian philosophy, science, religion and so on by the Greeks and Romans, he mentions Giordano Bruno, he asks could he have been burned at the stake for among other things his belief that Egyptian religion not just as foreshadowing Christianity but as the true religion? Bruno wrote

Do not suppose that the sufficiency of the Chaldaic magic derived from the Kabbalah of the Jews; for the Jews are without doubt the excrement of Egypt, and no one could ever pretend with any degree of probability that the Egyptians borrowed any principle, good or bad, from the Hebrews. Whence we Greeks [by which he seems to mean Gentiles] own Egypt, the grand monarchy of letters and nobility, to be the parent of our fables, metaphors and doctrines.

In the same chapter, there is a quote from Newton’s Principia Mathematica thus

It was the most ancient opinion of those who applied themselves to philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immovable in the highest parts of the world; that under them the planets revolved about the sun; and that the earth, as one of the planets, described an annual course about the Sun … The Egyptians were the earliest observers of the ( heavens and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad. For from them it was, and from the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people more addicted to the study of philology than of nature, derived their first as well as their soundest notions of philosophy; and in the Vestal ceremonies we can recognize the spirit of the Egyptians, who concealed mysteries that were above the capacity of the common herd under the veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols.

This book just like the others I have read on the subject till now, which are few, do not answer my question: Who were the Egyptians and why did Africa turn out black?

The history of mankind is filled with bloodshed

After having had Jared Diamond’s Guns, germs and steel in my to read list for over a year, I have eventually got to reading it.

As the title of the post suggest, this is what happened in Nz not so long ago. Diamond writes

[..]before the Moriori could deliver that offer, the Maori attacked end masse. Over the next few days, they killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of the bodies, and enslaved all the others, killing most of them too over the next few years as it suited their whim.

A Maori conqueror explained,“we took possession…in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people.  Not one escaped.  Some ran away from us, these we killed,  and others we killed -but what of that? It was in accordance with our custom.”

And that, my friends, is only a glimpse of how history has played out in  some places.

​Does an African philosophy exist?

This is the second last chapter in Diop’s Civilization or Barabarism. This is one of the chapters I liked the most in the book. 
He writes

 in the classical sense of the term, a philosophical thought must bear at least two fundamental criteria:

1. It must be conscious of itself, of its own existence as a thought;

2. It must have accomplished, to a sufficient degree, the separation of myth from concept. 

He limits his enquiry to Pharaonic Egypt and the rest of Black Africa. 

What these philosophies are/ were are not the interest of this particular post. 

A French Egyptologist, Amelineau, quoted by Diop, wrote

One was right to admire the speculating genius of the Greek philosophers in general, and of Plato in particular, but this admiration that the Greeks deserve without any doubt, the Egyptian priests deserve even more, and if we give them credit for the paternity of what they invented, we would only be committing an act of justice.

Egypt had inaugurated, from the first Egyptian dynasties onward and probably before that, a system of cosmogony that the first Greek philosophers, Ionian or Eleatic, reproduced in its essential lines, and from which Plato himself was not loath to borrow the basis for his vast speculations, which Gnostics, Christians, Platonists, Aristotelians and Pythagoreans all did only decorate with more or less pretentious names and concepts, whose prototypes are found in Egyptian works, word for word in the case of both the ennead and the ogdoad and almost that of the hebdomad.

Between (Aristotle’s) doctrine, Plato’s doctrine and that of the Heliopolitan priests, I could see no difference other than a difference of expression.

Elsewhere, our author quotes Strabo (58BC to 25CE), a Greek scholar, who wrote

We saw over there [in Heliopolis] the hallowed halls that were used in the past for the lodging of the priests; but that is not all; we were also shown Plato’s and Eudoxus’s dwelling, for Eudoxus had accompanied Plato here; after arriving at Heliopolis, they stayed there for thirteen years among the priests: this fact is affirmed by several authors. These priests, so profoundly knowledgeable about celestial phenomena, were at the same time mysterious people, who did not talk much, and it is only after a long time and with skillful maneuvering that Eudoxus and Plato were able to be initiated into some of their theoretical speculations. But these Barbarians kept the best part to themselves. And if today the world owes them the knowledge of what fraction of a day ( of a whole day) has to be added to 365 whole days in order to have a complete year, the Greeks did not know the true duration of the year and many other facts of the same nature until translators of the Egyptian priests’ papers into the Greek language popularized these notions among modern astronomers, who have continued, up to present time, to draw heavily from this same source as they have from the Chaldeans’ writings and observations. 

Towards the end of the chapter, Diop reflects on the death of classical philosophy and offers hope for a new philosophy. He writes

[..]All of the above shows that classical philosophy, as promoted by men of letters, is dead. A new philosophy will rise from these ashes only of the modern scientist, whether a physicist, a mathematician, a biologist or anything else, ascribes to a “a new philosophy”; in the history of thought, the scientist up to now, has almost always had the status of a brute, of a technician, unable to extract the philosophical importance from his discoveries and his inventions, while this task always fell to the classical philosopher.

Philosophy’s present misery corresponds to the time interval that separates the death of the classical philosopher and the birth of the philosopher; the latter undoubtedly will integrate in his thought all of the above-signaled premises, which barely point to the scientific horizon, in order to help man reconcile man with himself. 

Concerning reason or the ability to reason, he writes

Thus there is reason and its content of the moment, or more correctly, the aptitude, the ability to reason, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the more or less consistent, provisional materials brought to light by the sciences which are affected by this ability to reason; there is reason’s permanent structure and its always outmoded content, directly caused by scientific progress and which condition the operating rules of the logic of the moment. Only, reasoning reason is permanent, its content becomes modified with time. 

Writing on the bahaviour of modern man, he writes, in part, that

Ecology, defending the environment, tends to become the foundation of a new ethnic of species, based on knowledge: the time is not far off when the pollution of nature will become a sacrilege, a criminal act, even and mainly for the atheist, because of the one fact that the future of humanity is at stake; what knowledge or “the science of the epoch” decrees as harmful to the whole group thus becomes progressively a moral prohibition. 

As I have written elsewhere, this book is a good read. It, in my view forms the basis for further research on African anthropology for the interested scholar and maybe through such study, a work will be produced that will paint Africa not as the dark continent, as we have been made to believe, but as a pinnacle if not as civilization worthy of respect just as we have been taught of other world civilizations now dead.

On Africa continued

Galen, a 2nd century Greek philosopher, reduced the traits of the black person to two

  1. Inordinate length of his penis
  2. Hilarity,  strong propensity for laughter

And since then every racist has worked hard to make these the only or main characteristics of the black person.

It has been said Diop in his writings came out strongly in his defense of the black African. I don’t know how one would respond to this passage from Count Arthur J. Gobineau, who wrote

Whence this rigorous conclusion that the source from which the arts have sprung is alien to the civilizing instincts. It is hidden in the blood of the Blacks. 

[..]thus the Black possesses to the highest degree the sensual faculty without which art is not possible ;and, on the other hand,  the absence of intellectual aptitudes renders him completely unfit for the culture of the arts, even for the appreciation of what this noble application of the human intelligence can produce of significance. In order to develop his faculties, he must ally himself with a differently gifted race..

The artistic genius, equally foreign to three great types, has manifested itself only after the marriage of Blacks and Whites.

That, my friends is part of the literature written about the Black African not so long ago. I think it will take a long time to correct such a view.

Attitude towards sexual fidelity 

In a previous post I wrote there was no case brought against a man who killed his wife’s lover if he found them in the act. What I failed to mention is that the Luo feared killing believing it would bring bad omen. 

In the event one was so unfortunate to find the wife in such a compromising situation, you were to pretend you didn’t see. Give the man an opportunity to get away and don’t embarrass the wife by bringing the issue up. Cheating on one’s spouse was not ground for separation.

What I also found strange is what appears to be a contradiction. They had a set out way on returning bride wealth in the event a marriage broke down but a woman who eloped with someone else would still return to her position after several years and be welcomed back. One wonders why have laws or rules on returning bride wealth while at the same time look at marriage as permanent?