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Beiträge von Peter Uys
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Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton)

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Eyes Open [Re-Issue]
Eyes Open [Re-Issue]

5.0 von 5 Sternen Meisterwerk!, 2. Februar 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Eyes Open [Re-Issue] (Audio CD)
On this masterpiece, N'Dour is backed by The Super Étoile plus various guest musicians; the instruments employed are too numerous to mention. Eyes Open kicks off with the sound of birdsong on New Africa, a melodious, moving call for African self-reliance, cooperation and good governance. Then follows the satirical Live Television in English and French, in which N'Dour offers some biting observations on TV addiction in his endearing English. Those are just two of five languages on this ambitious album: he also sings (mostly) in the lingua franca of Gambia and Senegal called Wolof, and in Serer and Fulani (Pulaar).

Versatility is the name of the game, as this great work attempts a comprehensive redefinition of African music, integrating styles as diverse as rock, reggae, jazz, mbalax, soul, R&B, merengue, makossa & rap. A mouthful and an earful! There's the slow jazzy ballad No More, there's Country Boy which deals with urbanization and losing one's roots - a track with a slow intro before the polyrhythms kick in, whilst Hope and Africa Remembers are tender, soulful ballads.

The hymn-like traditional Yo Lé Lé celebrates the ancestral home of the Fulani people in graciously undulating percussive and vocal patterns. On the melancholic French-only Survie, N'Dour laments the grim economic reality that many Africans have to face every day, while the somber Useless Weapons is constructed around a grand piano and stuttering vocals.

The album concludes with words of wisdom on Things Unspoken, a warning against mindlessly following movements and subtle indoctrination and a call for people to think for themselves by reading between the lines. Eyes Open encompasses many musical treasures and yields something new with every listen. It surpasses N'Dour's 1989 bestseller, The Lion, in its melodic, stylistic and lyrical scope.

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3.0 von 5 Sternen When everybody could be a superstar!, 20. Januar 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Superstar (Audio CD)
Disco music reached the height of popularity between 1977 and 1979 when stars like the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Chic, Amanda Lear, Andy Gibb, Grace Jones and Sylvester ruled the dancefloors. Some of them ruled the radiowaves too.

There were, however, other artists whose work was restricted to the clubs or who became one-hit wonders on the sales charts in the USA and UK. They include Don Ray with his album Garden of Love, Dan Hartman with Instant Replay and the Frenchmen Cerrone and Patrick Juvet.

Bob McGilpin had 3 huge disco hits of which only one, the soulful When You Feel Love, a slow romantic ballad, entered the Billboard Hot 100 and hung around its lower reaches for a while. The title track Superstar made it to number one on the US disco chart in 1978 and I'll Always Come a Running was another dancefloor favorite.

The mid-tempo Superstar has long intro, the obligatory extended rhythm break in the middle, and impressive synth swooshes and bleeps in the second part. The style is typical period disco with inspiring lyrics about reaching one's dreams. Move In Closer, Moon Dancin' and Go For The Money are similar.

Like most disco albums of the time, half the tracks are mid- to uptempo dance music whilst the rest are ballads. The Bee Gees' influence is heard most prominently in tracks like I'll Always Come a Running with its falsetto backing vocals; this ballad also stands out for its great guitar infusions.

It's no masterpiece but Superstar brings back memories of an innocent era when the fun of the dance rivaled the rebellious rage of punk. The book that best captures the spirit of the disco era is by Albert Goldman.

Death Orders: The Vanguard of Modern Terrorism in Revolutionary Russia (Praeger Security International)
Death Orders: The Vanguard of Modern Terrorism in Revolutionary Russia (Praeger Security International)
von Anna Geifman
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Preis: EUR 41,30

4.0 von 5 Sternen Devoted to Death, 9. Januar 2011
This study reveals the close correspondences between terrorism in Tsarist Russia in the early 20th century, the way the death cult manifested throughout the century and up to the contemporary Jihad. The author takes a psycho-historical approach to the phenomenon to demonstrate how the violence in Russia serves as a blueprint for modern terror. From 1901 to 1917 more than 20,000 terrorist acts resulted in about 17,000 wounded or dead. Starting out as targeted assassinations, the killings soon became indiscriminate.

A startling revelation is that the stated ideology, political motive or dogma is not the driving force - death worship is. The killers themselves became indiscriminate, joining a bewildering array of organizations and sometimes openly declaring that murder was more important than ideology. The work also casts light on the reason why revolutions devour so many of their children. Should it gain power as the Bolsheviks did in Russia in 1917, a terror state is the result and the killing proceeds on a much larger scale.

The personality type of the suicide-homicide bomber is illuminated along with the psychology of the movement that promotes it; in this regard, Eric Hoffer's True Believer is of value in tracing the development of the mass movement and those that join it. Two other personality types are associated with the romantic nihilist: the sinister intellectual that justifies genocide on idealistic grounds and the predator that takes advantage of the mayhem caused by the nihilist and the mask of idealism created by the intellectual.

Geifman shows that this type of violence grows like a living organism which needs perpetual motion to survive. When attacking external forces, the momentum continues but the instant it is contained, the killing turns inward as the organism starts feeding on its components - the perpetrators exterminate one another. Deluded by the idea that they are the masters of life and death, the leaders of these movements are in reality only the agents of Thanatos.

The worship of death or the impulse towards human sacrifice is a feature of all secular and many religious salvationist movements that strive for utopia. The utopian urge is never extinguished and those who take the path either end up insane or create hell on earth as Robert Conquest shows in Dragons Of Expectation. It thus appears that there will always be thanatophiles but the good news is that these death cults all eventually disappear.

It is therefore irresponsible to negotiate with the Ayatollocracy or to think that terror groups like Hamas or Hezbollah could ever become moderate or tolerant. Recognition by the EU and other countries of a Palestinian state which would necessarily include Hamastan in Gaza would be a deadly mistake that will only increase the misery of Palestinians.

The author contributes major new insights on the history, psychology and modus operandi of terrorism with this intercultural, diachronic study spanning more than a hundred years. The book is impeccably researched and contains a comprehensive bibliography.

ANDY GIBB Flowing Rivers LP 1977
ANDY GIBB Flowing Rivers LP 1977

4.0 von 5 Sternen Lilting rhythms and soulful ballads, 7. Januar 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: ANDY GIBB Flowing Rivers LP 1977 (Vinyl)
Andy's 1977 debut has aged remarkably well. Stylistically varied, the album offers funky disco, falsetto singing in the Saturday Night Fever style, soulful pop and pop-rock, country-flavored ballads and a touch of pre-disco Bee Gees. Barry Gibb wrote the opening number I Just Want To Be Your Everything and co-wrote (Love Is) Thicker Than Water; the other eight tracks are Andy's own work.

Words And Music is the one that conjures the early Bee Gees style although it's more uptempo than classics like Words or Don't Forget To Remember. The country-tinged numbers tastefully embellished by steel guitar infusions include Dance To The Light Of The Morning and the lilting title track, whilst the buoyant Come Home For The Winter is pure country.

The most outstanding track - in my opinion - the brilliant Let It Be Me, seamlessly blends elements of rock, pop and country plus, in its rhythmic texture, a hint of R&B. This arresting performance resembles the magnificent Time Is Time which is available on the Greatest Hits collection. Both of them display the power of his vocals at full throttle.

Of the soulful ballads, Too Many Looks In Your Eyes showcases various aspects of Andy's vocals in its complex yet cohesive arrangement whilst the swirling Starlight exudes a yearning, atmospheric quality. The two aforementioned songs associated with Barry come closest to the Bee Gees Disco of the period, I Just Want To Be Your Everything a bit more so than 'Thicker than Water.'

This excellent album concludes with the grandly orchestrated In The End, a melancholic and perhaps prophetic track. It needs be said that the melodious and lyrical qualities of the music are of a high standard throughout.

In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the Four Fields of Anthropology in Honor of Harold Crane Fleming
In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the Four Fields of Anthropology in Honor of Harold Crane Fleming
von John D. Bengston
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5.0 von 5 Sternen In hot pursuit of the Mother Tongue, 16. Dezember 2010
This impressive work consists of 23 contributions by scholars in the disciplines of archaeology, biogenetics, paleo-anthropology and historical linguistics. It explores various aspects of prehistory with the emphasis on language, including the connection between language families & DNA, early population movements and the genetic classification of languages.

Part 1: African Peoples, contains studies of the Afro-Asiatic languages based on dental anthropology as well as the distribution of the Y chromosome, and what that might reveal about the peopling of southwest Asia, and northern and eastern Africa. Although these are valuable and informative contributions, one marvels at the blind, unanimous acceptance of the Out-of-Africa theory which cannot be proved and which could be disproved tomorrow by discoveries on other continents.

Part 2 is devoted to synchronic studies in African languages whilst Part 3: Prehistory & Classification of African languages, deals mostly with the Cushitic branch of Afro-Asiatic and with the Nilo-Saharan family. The most interesting article here, by Roger M Blench, examines the question of pan-African roots and the explanations offered. Some of these are indeed global roots found in Eurasia and the Americas too.

Part 4 is titled Languages of Eurasia, Oceania & the Americas. Highlights of this section include Allan R Bomhard's a discussion of the Proto Indo-European cardinal numbers and Larry Lepionka's taxonomy of Amerind families which differs in the detail from that of Joseph Greenberg.

Michael Witzel's Slaying the Dragon across Eurasia revisits this famous myth which is so beautifully and comprehensively (as regards Indo-European) addressed by Calvert Watkins in How to Kill a Dragon.

Although at first glance one might wish to dismiss George van Driem's essay as typical PoMo "theory blabber," it's worth reading. He defines Symbiomism as a philosophy which emerged from Symbiosism and which considers the individual and collective human identities as 'symbiomes' of a biological host and a semiotic 'symbiont.' Thank you, George.

Part 5 is devoted to human origins, the origin of language and the mother tongue. In his article on Paleolithic stone artifacts, Ofer Bar-Yosef argues that the skill of making stone tools cannot properly be transmitted only by watching and mimicking, but that it requires language too.

Stephen Zegura writes on human evolutionary genetics while Alain Matthey de l'Etang and Pierre J. Bancel discuss the universality of "mama/papa" kinship terms. Their in-depth etymological survey shows that kinship nursery terms are highly resistant to phonetic and semantic change. The cumulative evidence for the global distribution of mama/papa words supports the idea of common descent from a mother tongue - Proto Sapiens, Proto Human or Proto World.

The same authors illustrate the great antiquity and survival of personal pronouns in the Indo-European family and in the Eurasiatic macrofamily to which it belongs. They also suggest a way in which the category of first and second person pronouns might have been hatched. The book concludes with a general index, index of languages & languages families and an index of scholars discussed.

Some thoughts on the Out-of-Africa consensus, a model also called the Recent African Origin of Modern Humans, recent single-origin hypothesis (RSOH), Replacement Hypothesis, and Recent African Origin (RAO) model. There are fossils and there's Mitochondrial Eve. The oldest haplogroup which branched off from Ms Mitochondrial - L0 - is found in high concentration among the Sandawe of Tanzania, the San of southern Africa and the Mbuti of central Africa. Haplogroups L1, L2 and L3 are mainly confined to Africa. The macro haplogroups M and N - the lineages of the rest of the world - derive from L3.

Firstly, recent fossil finds at Qesem Cave near Rosh Ha'ayin in Israel, Denisova in Siberia, and in Australia and China place modern humans at a much earlier date in those regions than in Africa. In the second place, the genetic evidence does not prove that the fecund Eve lived in Africa. She might equally likely have resided in the Near East, e.g. Sinai, the Judean hills, Samaria, the slopes of Mount Carmel or Mesopotamia. Perhaps most of her surviving offspring developed Wanderlust and eventually moved east and south into Africa. A 2008 study revealed that African L3 is missing on the remote island of Soqotra so the original inhabitants have nothing to do with Africa, not much with the rest of the world, and that various unique mitochondrial haplogroups evolved there in ancient times. Analysis of DNA from Denisova fossils show that the modern inhabitants of New Guinea and parts of Melanesia carry Denisovan genes.

Genetic bottlenecks - for which there appears to be ample evidence - must also be taken into account. Ma Eve is said to have lived approximately 160 000 years ago but Pa Adam only about 60 000 years ago. Perhaps the children of Eve who moved east, north & south from the Middle East were doomed by a series of catastrophes so that those in Africa became her most numerous descendants by default. The most surprizing revelation of 2010 was no doubt the teeth from Qesem cave that closely resemble those of modern humans but are dated up to 400 000 years ago. They furthermermore resemble 100 000 year old teeth found at Qafzeh near Nazareth and in Skhul cave on Mount Carmel. Whatever the case may be, those interested in these thought-provoking articles will find much essential background info in the work of Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, in his books Genes, People and Languages and The Great Human Diasporas.

The Concept of Nature (The Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919)
The Concept of Nature (The Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919)
von Alfred North Whitehead
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Cosmic Event, 22. November 2010
In these Tarner Lectures on the philosophy of science, Whitehead evaluates the impact of Einstein's theories on nature and the then new revelations in physics. This includes a thought provoking critique of the way that matter, space and time had been perceived through the ages, from the Greek philosophers to the Enlightenment.

Accepting Einstein's theory of relativity, he disputes the interpretation thereof. Instead of considering energy/matter as primary, Whitehead argues that the Event and the Process of Becoming ought to be the approach to analyzing reality. His is an organic view opposed to the abstract concept of matter that had always dominated Western thought.

Whitehead rejects the notion of nature as a collection of independent entities according to which space, matter and time could exist without one another. He shifts the emphasis to activities or events that are considered active entities. Time and space are partial expressions of one fundamental relationship between events. This relationship which includes space and time is called Extension.

The two elements of our perception are (a) our Observational Present = Duration, and (b) the Percipient Event = Standpoint for Perception.

Duration possesses the character of an event but the quality of completeness distinguishes it as a specific type of event. A Duration does not occur instantaneously and its immediately observed part has a relatedness - as regards Extension - to other events which it does not include. Both inclusion and exclusion are positive relations.

The Percipient Event is the event included in one's immediate observation, which is identified as one's standpoint for perception = our physical life within the Duration.

Perception requires a sense-awareness of the significations of the Percipient Event as well as a sense-awareness of a particular relation/situation between particular objects and the events that are thus signified. The Percipient Event occupies an absolute position in any present Duration - a relation termed Cogredience. Every observation of nature contains a Duration and a Percipient Event and they are Cogredient.

One's knowledge of specific qualities of different events depends on one's ability to make comparisons. This he calls Recognition whilst the required sense-awareness about comparable qualities is called Sense-Recognition.

Both Recognition and abstraction reveal aspects of an entity that are less than the concrete fact but are nevertheless real factors in that fact. Abstraction is impossible without recognition and vice versa. This means that perception involves apprehension of the events and the recognition of the factors of their nature. Recognized things are Objects or situations within events.

Whitehead's theory ascribes no singular quality to light, considering it equivalent with sound, smell or touch. The speed of light and of sound is determined by the medium. Both are waves of disturbance in the physical character of events.

The chapters are titled: Nature and Thought; Theories of the Bifurcation of Nature; Time; The Method of Extensive Abstraction; Congruence; Objects; Summary, and The Ultimate Physical Concepts. The book concludes with an index.

A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
von Giulio Meotti
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Preis: EUR 27,25

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The martyrs of Israel, 3. Oktober 2010
A New Shoah preserves the memory of Israeli victims of the Second Intifada which started 10 years ago. Giulio Meotti gathered the testimony of many Israeli families and individuals that have been affected by these terror attacks that have claimed more than 1700 lives and injured over 10 000 people. Most of the victims were unarmed civilians going about their daily lives - the young, the old, children, men and women who were murdered just for being Jews.

In the foreword, Roger Scruton provides the background to the never-ending war against the Jews For a moment, the world showed remorse when the United Nations recognized the State of Israel in 1948. The country was meant to be a safe haven and a refuge but at birth it was attacked by its neighbors notwithstanding the UN vote. Since then, there have been open conflicts like those of 1967, 1973 and 2006 but the war against the Hebrews has never ceased.

Today it rages on all fronts: the media, international diplomacy, boycott initiatives and by means of the Iran - Syria - Hamas - Hezbollah axis armed by Russia. More and more the Jewish State is being demonized in the global media and international forums. This anti-Zionism, a thinly veiled form of antisemitism, thrives in the Arab World but has also become the default position of the European Union and much of the Western media where even ancient blood libels are being resurrected.

For four years the author trekked through Judea, Samaria and Galilee, conducting interviews with the families and friends of the victims. The book also serves as a profile of Israeli life. Despite the relentless onslaught, Israelis celebrate life in the shadow of death. They will not succumb to the death wish of those who would annihilate them. Since the media ignore them, this book serves as a monument to the martyrs.

They are Jews and that is the reason why they are hated and hunted. Shamed by Europe's responsibility for the Holocaust, the European media concentrate on Palestinian suffering in order to project European guilt onto the survivors and their descendents. The media ignore or minimize the suffering of Israelis whilst at the same time undermining and dehumanizing Israel. The odious terminology reserved for Jews in the Arab media is a continuation of the verbal dehumanization used by the Nazis.

Meotti investigates the themes of dehumanization and the suppression of Hebrew identity. In Europe the trend mirrors that preceding the Holocaust and the book establishes a direct link between the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Arab terror. The great betrayal followed the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when certain interests in Europe started promoting the deligitimization of Israel, as revealed by Bat Ye'or in Eurabia. The author exposes the propaganda network in politics, the media, the universities and trade unions and how terrorist organizations are funded by the EU, indicting a Western World in which the collapse of values and moral degradation have led to the suppression and distortion of truth.

To counteract this campaign of dehumanization, Meotti gives a voice to the martyrs and their loved ones while revealing the humanity and the decency of the people of Israel. Despite being surrounded by enemies that seek their destruction and constantly condemned by international bodies and powerful enemies in the West, Israelis persist in embracing life and in blessing the world through their valuable scientific and cultural contributions, their expertise in various fields that they share and the assistance they so generously offer when natural disasters occur. In this regard, see Israel in the World: Changing Lives Through Innovation.

The book Israel: Life in the Shadow of Terror, covers similar terrain up to 2003 and is also well worth reading. As the globe enters turbulent times, the Jewish community and those who stand by them must take heart and remain strong. The spirit of Israel cannot be killed and life will triumph over death and those who worship it.

Unjust Justice: Against the Tyranny of International Law (Crosscurrents)
Unjust Justice: Against the Tyranny of International Law (Crosscurrents)
von Chantal Delsol
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Dragons of Expectation, 30. September 2010
This is the concluding essay in a trilogy which encompasses Icarus Fallen and the Unlearned Lessons of the 20th Century. Here, the author dissects the fallacy of the concept of international justice, identifying its origin, demonstrating its real nature and warning what the world would become should it ever be implemented under a global government. Delsol defends cultural diversity but not the perversion which is called multiculturalism.

She shows that this demand for international justice and for the international institutions designed to serve it expresses a religious impulse inflamed by missionary zeal. Despite their rejection of religious certainty and its resulting intolerance, its advocates purvey their own false certitudes. The ideal is nothing but a secular essentialism which derives from the very Christian universalism which they despise.

This universalism of late modernity wishes to depolitize the individual in order to replace politics with a specific morality or legal moralism. She argues that such an imposition would lead to a semi-pantheistic cosmopolitanism that ultimately deprives the individual of humanity. No such thing as a uniform, transnational citizen exists. The rejection of particularity disincarnates mankind into abstraction.

By undermining the freedom of individual conscience it renders moral choice impossible. Blind to its own lack of objectivity, it denies the uniqueness of the individual and by implication, the sanctity of life. In effect, it elevates a particular system of preferences or set of attachments above reason and debate. Besides, not all transgressors of such 'international law' are subject to its enforcement now nor will be in the foreseeable future. Justice should be applicable to all without exception. It cannot be selectively applied to liberal democracies whilst ignoring the perpetrators of atrocities against the people of for example Chechnya or Tibet.

Driven by the compulsion for certitude, this secular universality is fueled by expectation which inevitably leads to impatience. Robert Conquest explains the pitfalls of the utopian impulse in his brilliant work The Dragons of Expectation. A vision of formless universality separates the individual from her/his cultural context. The notion of the global village is mere metaphor, she reminds us, as there is no universal culture. Furthermore, the neutrality claimed by the promoters of international justice is impossible.

Truth is, we cannot grasp the Good in its fullness, only partial impressions and remnants of it. That is where tradition, hope and faith in eternal referents come in. The 20th century proved that when spiritual referents are abandoned, the secular referents that displace them become abusive absolutes. This is idolatry - the confusion of categories, the failure to distinguish between the image of God and idealism or ideology.

International Justice does not recognize shades of grey or the fact that good & evil are present in every human being; it would enforce a rigid distinction between perpetrators and sufferers. In brief, it lacks understanding of the human condition. To put it bluntly, the transnational progressives that advocate it imagine themselves to be flawless champions of the ultimate good. That is exactly what the true believers of the previous century's secular salvationist ideologies believed.

The true Enlightenment of early modernity was betrayed by the abusive ideologies of later modernity as so eloquently explained by Gertrude Himmelfarb in The Roads to Modernity. Delsol argues that we need to acknowledge the debt that modernity owes to Judeo-Christian values and ethics. The nature and significance of that debt are brilliantly illuminated by David Brog in his book defending the legacy of faith in the West.

My Father Will Guide Me Up a R
My Father Will Guide Me Up a R
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4.0 von 5 Sternen You furious people make me so happy, 27. September 2010
Rezension bezieht sich auf: My Father Will Guide Me Up a R (Audio CD)
The return of Swans brings a new sound with echoes of the old and of Angels of Light. Five of the eight tracks exceed 5 minutes, making this an album of mostly epic pieces with complex tempo variation and shifting textures around that wall of sound which oscillates between jangles and drones. The exceptions, Reeling The Liars In, My Birth and Little Mouth stand out in their own ways.

To me the most impressive are the 9+ minute No Words/No Thoughts and the one in the middle, You Intercoursing People Make Me Sick. The first opens with glockenspiel/chimes before setting off on a winding road in a barrage of layered guitars and shifting rhythms, whilst a didgeridoo introduces the second of which the first part juxtaposes the voice of a guest vocalist with that of a little girl to eerie effect, somewhat like Identity on Love Of Life. Then the metal/industrial sounds burst forth with great ferocity.

Jim and My Birth come closest to mainstream hard rock. A mid tempo number, Jim gets the Swans stamp through its wild percussion, drones, odd noises and quiet moments inbetween. A dulcimer lends the feel to the dissonant My Birth. I would say Eden Prison with its churning cascades and jungle drums resemble most the sound of Great Annihilator and Inside Madeline brings to mind both the orchestral majesty of White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity & The Burning World as well as the drones of Soundtracks for the Blind.

The acerbic lyrics of the acoustic Reeling The Liars In more than compensate for its softer sonics, being closer kin to a song like Blind on Gira's Drainland or to the styles explored by Angels of Light. My Father concludes with Little Mouth, a track made special by the chanting of what sounds like massed choirs.

The themes explore the extremes as always whether expressed by fierce electrical storms characterized by jarring textures or just by voice and acoustic flavors as perfected way back by World of Skin. Gira fans whose favorite albums include Great Annihilator and the early 1990s masterpieces White Light and Love Of Love will be happiest with this powerful album.

In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity
In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity
von David Brog
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Sacred Thread, 12. September 2010
At the outset, it may be helpful to clarify what this book is not. It is not a missionary's manual for conversion, neither is it a study of comparative religion nor a work of apologetics. David Brog does not proselytize, does not denigrate other faith traditions or deny the atrocities committed in the name of religion.

What it does prove is that humans are not born with humanitarian values and that it is dangerous to assume they are. The author agrees with Richard Dawkins that humans are born selfish; Dawkins' 'selfish genes' correspond to Christianity's 'original sin' and Judaism's 'evil inclination.' We take for granted the supreme spiritual idea - that of reverence for life, which is acquired by acculturation. The morality and ethics of the West, derived from Judeo-Christian principles, counteract the selfish inclination.

History reveals the truth clearly enough. Great though it was, the Greco-Roman civilization practiced infanticide and considered murder a spectator sport. The previous century's secular salvationist ideologies based on class, nation or race - attempted substitutes twisting the core notion of the sanctity of every human life - bore a genocidal fruit. In one of them, the image of God was restricted to certain nations of a single race whilst in the other, it was reserved for a certain class.

Since the individual does not possess an inborn revulsion for the aforementioned practices, it was the concept of the holiness of human life which infused Western civilization with compassion and mercy. Not the law of Hammurabi which placed a higher value on the life of the rich. The radical egalitarianism of the bible - the idea of the individual as the image of God - gave rise to two related concepts: that every human life is equally sacred and that this sanctity needs to be promoted and defended.

The book chronicles the fact that every significant initiative aimed at preserving human life and dignity through many centuries has been led by Christians. These include the efforts to stop the annihilation of Indians in the Americas, abolishing the slave trade and slavery itself, granting civil rights to all in the USA and alleviating disease and famine in the Third World. More recently Jews have joined in these programmes. Before that, they were not in a position to do so due to Christian Antisemitism, the author admits.

The legacy of the Enlightenment is mixed. On the one hand it reigned in the excesses of religious superstition and led to the separation of state power. On the other, it justified slavery and found new ways of dividing mankind by means of class and race. Xenophobic nationalism grew out of the romantic reaction against the Enlightenment. Here, perhaps, it would be wise to make a clear distinction between the Anglo-Saxon and Continental versions as explained by Gertrude Himmelfarb in The Roads to Modernity.

The Enlightenment's sinister offspring have risen again, despite the lessons of the barbaric, blood-drenched twentieth century. That is why Western religion is being undermined so relentlessly in popular culture and why Christianity was not deemed worthwhile to be mentioned in the constitution of the European Union. The mistaken assumption is that the aforementioned core value would survive the disappearance of Judaism and Christianity.

The twentieth century ought to serve as a warning of how rapidly a society's morality can implode when the key concept is discarded. In this regard, the French philosopher Chantal Delsol has expressed her concerns in two illuminating essays: The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century and Icarus Fallen. The idea of the sanctity of life is by no means an obvious one which automatically reproduces itself.

The author agrees with Delsol that one does not have to be a dogmatic believer to embrace and cherish the heritage of the Judeo-Christian tradition. There are examples of agnostics and atheists passionately defending these same principles whilst adherents of other faiths may share them. Plus, it needs be said, many self-declared Christians have not lived up to the tradition's golden rule.

Moral Relativism, an outflow of the ideo-faith of Postmodernism, is exacerbating the loss of the compassionate framework. Equating all faiths, it focuses on religion's worst aspects in order to dismiss it altogether. It is not consistent, however, in applying this judgment - all faiths are equal but Western religion is worse. And the PoMo, Multicult cluster resembles ideologies like Marxism and Nazism in its obsession with the struggle for power.

Disaster rapidly follows the degradation related to celebrating our innate selfishness. That's why it is so important to transfer the moral insights of the Judeo-Christian tradition from one generation to the next. Further insight on the interaction of science, faith & society is provided by Michael Polanyi. The human being as the image of God is the tie that binds the West's two traditional religions. It is also the glue that holds our civilization together and the inspiration behind our noblest achievements.
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