If you win you lose.

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Israel and Egypt have a peace treaty that was signed by Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel in 1979.  The peace was made possible by the Egyptian gains in the Yom Kippur War which began on October 6th 1973.  The real-politik of that “victory” is a crucial lesson on a path to peace.

Egypt was humiliated by Israel in the 6 day war of 1967.  Their air force was wiped out by the Israelis and they lost the Sinai all the way back to the Suez canal.

A weak power which has just lost a war cannot negotiate a peace.  Whatever is negotiated will be seen as a surrender by both sides.  In order to negotiate a peace nations require a parity of gain or loss.  They need a stalemate of sorts.

In 1973, on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, when many Israeli soldiers were given holiday leave, the Egyptians and Syrians caught the IDF napping.  It was during Ramadan, the muslim holy month, and the Israelis thought they were safe.  The military build up by the Arabic forces was observed by the Israeli military intelligence, but Egyptian disinformation was excellent.  They sent streams of misleading communications about missing spare parts, malfunctioning equipment and lack of training on new weapons.  They also dismissed their Russian military advisors in the months leading up to the war.

Then, in the summer of 1973 the Egyptians mounted huge military exercises along the Suez canal and the Israelis were forced to mobilise defence forces, at great expense, to shadow the Egyptian movements.  As the exercises went on, month after month, the natural inclination for the Israelis was to downgrade the alert levels.  By the time Yom Kippur arrived many of the soldiers were overdue some leave.

The Arabs made good early gains, the Egyptians especially, retaking large parts of the Sinai.  The inevitable Israeli response was swift and furious.  Within 3 days the fronts were stabilised.

This is when things get really interesting.  Israel was able to throw the Syrians back to the pre-attack lines on the Golan Plateau.  The Syrian attack was a failure and the battle lines remain in contention to this day.

In the Sinai the Israelis were unable to dislodge the Egyptians and a stalemate ensued.  The Israelis had to hold up their hands and admit they had been caught off guard.  The Egyptians were able to sell the conflict as a victory to the Egyptian people.

This perception of a victory allowed Anwar Sadat to underscore his position to the people of Egypt as a strongman.  As a victorious General he could go to the negotiation table and forge a peace with Israel.  Without some form of victory in the Yom Kippur war he could never have agreed the peace treaty with Israel.  The Egyptian hawks would have portrayed any deal as a surrender.

The peace between Egypt and Israel holds to this day.  Although it has its skeptics, those who describe it as a “Cold Peace” akin to a Cold War, the fact is that it has stabilised the region.

What I find interesting is that the Israelis had to give up on victory to secure an enduring peace.  Sometimes when you win you lose, because your victory weakens your opponent, who must then fight on.  The result is decades of conflict.

On the other hand, as in this case, by losing a bit you win the bigger game.  Accept a defeat, give strength to your opponent, and they can sue for peace that will endure.

Anwar Sadat began the Yom Kippur war on this day in 1973.  On this day in 1981 he was assassinated by an islamic fundamentalist group of his own military officers during the annual victory parade celebrating the crossing of the Suez Canal.  Sometimes if you win you lose.

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Sushi LVI

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Sevens are powerful.  Seven is the building block of the calendar, the week has seven days.

There were seven wonders of the ancient world.  The seventh son of a seventh son has the healing hands in Ireland, becomes a vampire in Romania.  Seven virtues and seven sins.  Highly effective people have seven habits.  Seven is the most significant number in the septet of Harry Potter books.

Multiple sevens birthdays are important and I celebrate one today.

My wife decided to make sushi for the first time ever and the result is delicious.  It is also extremely pretty.  I have never made sushi and I love it, and Louise is a vegetarian so on all levels I am impressed.  But then she is a great cook as my waistline can attest to.

Take more exercise you say!  I heard the best quote today “You can’t outrun a bad diet”.  Exercise is great for your heart, it reduces cancer risk, it reduces risk of dementia, it makes you feel good both physically and mentally, but the sad truth is it does almost nothing to make you lose weight.  The way to lose weight is eat less.

But today is my birthday and its my party, I’ll eat if I want to.

Now I remember this song so well.  It came out the year I was born.

Dublinvania

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Bran Castle in Transylania – Never a Vampire found.

Vampire hunters of the world where are you bound?  The soaring Carpathian mountains?  The forests of Transylvania?  The dark stretches of the Danube to the port of Varna?  Perhaps the dour English port of Whitby?  You are wasting your time.

If its vampires you want you will find them in Dublin.

The first appearence of a vampire in literature was the Lesbian Vamire Carmilla, the product of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a Dublin lad who wrote about the Evil immortal countess from a mysterious Eastern territory in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Her lust for blood is equal to her lust for pretty young girls.  Oh, the horror.  One of the short stories in his anthology “In a Glass Darkly” published in 1872 which is simply the greatest title for a book of horror stories.

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Some twenty five years later Dracula was published in 1897 by Bram Stoker rounding off the key elements of the canon of vampire lore, Van Helsing, Count Dracula, the demented human servant, the many brides of Dracula, wooden stakes, garlic, sacred weapons, lack of reflections and so on.

It is quite likely that Stokers imagination was fired by the stories of Sheridan Le Fanu.  While he never travelled to Eastern Europe himself it is known that in London he was friends with Ármin Vámbéry a hungarian Jew and fellow writer,  who regaled Stoker with tales of the Carpathians.

So from the pens of two Dublin writers of the late 19th Century we derive a body of vampire lore that has evolved into libraries of books, comics, graphic novels, films and television series.

Fangs for the memories guys.

Except…. it’s all lies.

There was Lord Byron with his poem The Giaour back in 1813

But first, on earth as vampire sent,
thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
and suck the blood of all thy race;
there from thy daughter, sister, wife,
at midnight drain the stream of life;
yet loathe the banquet which perforce
must feed thy livid living corpse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
shall know the demon for their sire,
as cursing thee, thou cursing them,
thy flowers are withered on the stem.

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And then there was that night on Lake Geneva in 1816 during the year without a summer when Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and John William Polidori competed to write the scariest horror story.  The night that gave us Frankenstein from the pen of Mary Shelley.

Polidori wrote “The Vampyre”, and published it in 1819 in The New Monthly Magazine where the unscrupulous editor attributed it falsely to Lord Byron to up his sales.

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Happy Birthday Horatio

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Horatio Nelson needs no history lesson here, you know who he is.  Today is his birthday and he was born in 1758.  Despite leaving parts of himself all over Europe this tiny man had a huge impact.  He clearly liked his sun holidays did Horatio, and he used to get up to some crazy antics.  He left his arm behind in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797 after one holiday.  He lost his eye in Corsica in 1794 and rumor has it that he lost his heart in Naples in 1798 to Lady Hamilton.

Nelson was ennobled as the First Duke of Bronté and it is this title that gave us the famous Brontë family, Anne, Charlotte and Emily.

The father of the three Victorian writers was born Patrick Prunty from County Down in Ireland.  Patrick attended Cambridge University and perhaps found that his Irish Heritage was a handicap.  These were the days when Europe was in turmoil as Napoleon demolished the Ancien Regime and spread concepts such as the rights of man, enlightenment and republicanism.  Ireland rebelled in 1798 seeking independence from the United Kingdom.  There is even a theory that his own brother was a rebel.  This highly political environment must have been a concern to a young protestant Irish student of divinity.

So Patrick Prunty changed his surname and adopted the name of Nelsons dukedom to become Patrick Brontë.

Fall, leaves, fall; by Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
lengthen night and shorten day;
every leaf speaks bliss to me
fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
ushers in a drearier day.

They have no lot in our labour.

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Each year on remembrance Sunday all over England, and throughout the former British Colonies, services are held for the fallen.  People sport the poppy they bought to support military families in times of need.  They recite the words of a dirge written in 1914 by Laurency Binyon, who was born on this day in 1869.

The words people always remember are the line “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old”.  You can understand the power of this line for those who saw their colleagues die on the field of battle.  Each year they return for the service and each year another one of their old mates has passed away, and they lurch towards the grave under the weight of age and infirmity.

It is a sentiment captured in “The Green Fields of France” lyrics:

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind,
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined,
And though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart you’re forever nineteen

Today though I am moved by another line in this poem : they have no lot in our labour of the day-time.  Some people might read this line as meaning “Lucky them to have escaped the drudgery of the working round – they got off.”

Not me.

I read this line through the Marxist lens that we are what we do.

If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people.”  Marx, Reflections of a Young Man (1835)

At the core of Marxism is the tenet that we should own our labour.  Capitalism is a system designed to wrest resources from the weak and accumulating them for the strong.  Capitalists steal your productivity for their enrichment.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the field of battle.  The rich men of the world use their power to bend politics to their will.  When this results in war it is the small, the weak, the uneducated who are sent to the front lines.  The small man has nothing to gain from war and everything to lose.  By risking his life in battle he risks all the coming years of his working life, all the output of that work, all the benefit for his spouse, his children, his grandchildren.  They have no lot in our labour of the day-time.  War is the sharp end of the capitalist system.

 

For the Fallen; by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
there is music in the midst of desolation
and a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
they fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
they sit no more at familiar tables of home;
they have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
they sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
to the innermost heart of their own land they are known
as the stars are known to the Night;

as the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
as the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
to the end, to the end, they remain.

Telling Lies #11: Fake News

Fake News

Once upon a time journalists were seen as heroes of the people.  They fought against “the man”.  They exposed the elaborate cover-up by dint of hard work, hours of laborious investigations in dark libraries (the libraries were always dark), cultivating whistleblowers by having meetings in car parks at night.  They were threatened by the powers that be with jail time but they would not give up their sources.  You could trust a journalist.  A journalist was solid, brave, loyal, resourceful, basically a boyscout.

Good journalists were given Pulitzer prizes for their investigations.  They were given international awards for exposing corruption, white collar crime, tax avoidance, all that stuff the top 2% hate you to hear about.

So then “The Man” took over the news organs.  The “independent press” became a mouthpiece for the interests of the Global 2%, the Davos set, the Bilderberg crowd.  You could not trust the headlines, or the stories.  Investigative journalism was fine if it exposed low-lifes, organised crime or benefit cheats.  But God Forbid it should look into the tax affairs of Billionaires.  In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by 50 companies; in 2012, 90% was controlled by just 6 companies.  This pattern is reapeated worldwide.

Then along came the internet and the 5th Estate.  On Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Quora etc we get the truth, straight from the horses mouth.  You can talk to the person at the source.

The Media Moguls who now owned the 4th Estate needed to disrupt the 5th Estate.  The tool they use is called “Fake News”.  If you flood the media with sensational fake news you can create so many side conversations that it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the lies.

The age of the investigative journalist was over.  Success in journalism today resides in the ability to write good clickbait.  The headlines that go viral are the Pulitzer prizes of today.  Nobody cares about the actual article.  So these days as a Journalist you may write an excellent and insightful article which is published widely, only to find that it is topped with a clickbait headline you did not write.  The headline may not even bear any resemblance to the article itself.

In a world where every politically charged news item is presented with wildly contradictory “facts” the average Joe just retreats from the war for airtime.

Karl Marx famously commented on how the oppressed retreated into Religion as an anodyne to the realities of a hard life, something to distract the attention of the worker from his or her own exploitation, a promise of something better in the next world.  In the modern social-media world religion has been replaced by “Reality TV”.  Keeping up with the Kardashians, Love Island, America’s Got Talent, Who wants to be a Millionaire, Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, America’s Top Model, Duck Dynasty, Ice Road Truckers, Storage Wars and so on.  All of these shows are examples of Hyperreal simulacra.  They represent an idealised life that does not exist – Disneyland for adults who find themselves out of touch with the cold hard realities of the modern world.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” Karl Marx