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Old 13.03.2010, 17:52   #1
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Default Toynbee

March 11, 2010
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TOYNBEE
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One reason I love to read and reread Toynbee (sometimes more than twice) is that so much of what he says, and the authorities he quotes, are anti-authoritarian and apply not only to me personally but also to mankind in general, including – or should I say, especially – to Armenians.
Random examples follow:
Volney: “The source of man's calamities reside within him; he carries them in his heart.”
Saint Cyrian: “If the foreign enemy were to cease from troubling, would Roman really be able to live at peace with Roman?”
Rabbi Agus: “'Uniqueness' as an innate quality of being is exclusive in character, invidious in intent, invariably offensive.”
Walter Bagehot: “The very institutions which most aid at step number one are precisely those which most impede at step number two.” In Toynbee's own words: “Progress would not have been the rarity it is if the early food had not been the late poison.”
And I think of our own political parties whose step number one was love of freedom, and step number two fear or hatred of free speech.” Our own Garabents put it more succinctly when he said: “Once upon a time we fought and shed our blood for freedom. We are now afraid of free speech.” And to think that Garabents was a thoroughly pro-establishment writer beloved by all.
Another quality that makes Toynbee attractive to me personally is that he quotes the Bible (and he does so frequently – more frequently than any other historian I have read) not as a believer but as a non-believer. In his own words: “I believe that the answers to the questions that matter most to us can be found only beyond the reason's limits, if they can be found at all.” Please note that final “if.”
When asked why he had devoted thirty years of his life to the writing of his magnum opus, STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee is said to have replied with a single word: “Curiosity.”
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March 12, 2010
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BLUNT TALK
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“The United States was not the golden land of opportunity people thought it was. Blacks were oppressed. The poor were downtrodden. The press told lies. Truth existed nowhere. Everyone was motivated by money.” (THE SHOT, by Philip Kerr. New York, 2000, page 62).
Blunt talk.
That's what I like.
I wish we had more of it.
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People who are afraid of open spaces are said to suffer from agoraphobia, a word that combines two Greek words – agora (space) and phobia (fear). It seems to me, collectively, we suffer from alithophobia (fear of truth) and pragmatophobia (fear of reality). Which may well be why there are a great many people out there who don't believe us even when we speak the truth, probably because they think we suffer from psematolatria (the worship of lies).
Next time you hear or read one of our pundits or “patriotards” (baloney artists parading as community leaders), I urge you to keep these words in mind even if you can't find them in any dictionary for the simple reason that I just made them up.
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Please note that Philip Kerr, the author of the above quotation, is not a historian, sociologist, or academic, but a writer of thrillers who was greatly influenced by Raymond Chandler, the only American writer I have enjoyed reading three times – see especially his FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. Like Chandler, Kerr has a brilliant sense of humor. At one point, for instance, his central character, who happens to be a professional assassin, says: “I'm the real careful type. Ava Gardner offered to **** my c*ock I'd probably ask what was in it for me.”
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The only other American writer I have read three time is Hemingway -- not his novels but his short story “The Killers.”
I don't mention LOLITA because Nabokov was less American and more Russian cosmopolitan.
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March 13, 2010
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REFLECTIONS
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My two ambitions in life as a writer:
(one) to explain why many Armenians are alienated, and
(two) to expose the arrogance and incompetence of those who alienate them in the name of patriotism.
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If rabbis, imams, and bishops were to renounce their monopoly on truth, would the number of their followers go up or down?
Hard to say.
But one thing we can say with certainty: they would be promoting tolerance instead of intolerance.
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As a reader, I prefer bad dialogue to good descriptions. I should like to read a work of fiction that begins with the words: “In what follows, I will not speak of the appearance and wardrobe of my characters on the assumption that what's most important about them will emerge in what they say.”
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The trouble with some of my critics is that
they don’t consider me worthy of criticism.
Instead, they insist that I either give up writing
or change my views in such a manner as to jibe with theirs.
In short, they demand that I become a disciple and an echo.
Their disciple and their echo!
My critics are not literary critics in the usual sense of these words,
but messianic figures whose message is
“Abandon your ways and follow me,
for I am the only path to wisdom and salvation.”
To such an Armenian to say anything but “Yes, master!”
would be heresy leading to eternal damnation and hellfire.
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