Swans Commentary » swans.com January 31, 2005  



The Upside Down
Walter Laqueur One


by Milo Clark





A man without feet runs everywhere,
without eyes sees the world.

Without going out my door
I can know all things on earth. . . ,
The sage. . . arrives without traveling,
sees without looking,
does all without doing.

Socrates. . . if you're serious, . . .
Won't human life have to turned
completely upside down?

(From appendix A, Upside-down language in The Bijak of Kabir, Linda Hess/Shukdev Singh, trans., North Point Press, San Francisco, 1983, ISBN 0- 86547-114-2)

let's get away from
all the clever humans
who put words in our mouth
and only say what our hearts desire.
—Rumi (Fountain of Fire, A Celebration of Life and Love, Nader Khalili trans., Cal- Earth Press, Hesperia CA, 1994, ISBN 1-889625-03-5, 44, p. 74.)

Shabda Fifty five (of Five Songs)

Brother, see what comforts man-
it's an untellable story.
Lion and tiger are yoked to a plow
sowing rice in a barren field.
The wild bear is pulling weeds,
the billy goat runs the farm.
The nanny goat married a lion
while a cow sang wedding songs.
The dowry was an antelope,
the bridesmaid was a lizard.
The crow washed all the laundry
while the heron gnashed its teeth.
The fly shaved it head, shouting
I must join the marriage party.
Kabir says, can you
figure out this
If so, I'll call you
scholar, genius,
—Kabir (Bijak, appendix A, p. 174)


(Swans - January 31, 2005)  Whether or not George Orwell was familiar with Kabir, Lao-Tzu or Plato, he thoroughly understood the wonders and intrigues of upside down ways. Animal Farm and 1984 are perfectly upside down.

Upside down expositions can be used to clarify, but more often are used to confuse. To confuse, we call them "propaganda," "advertising," or "public relations." Better yet "politics" or "history."

To clarify, we call them sutras, suras, gospels, or vedas. The clarity which emerges from the latter groupings is often called "esoteric," meaning that it is hidden from all but those who know or are initiates.

What are we to call the obscurations veiled as "history?" What rings true?

I have often cited historian John Lukacs. His clarity of presentation and continuity of logic endures throughout his extensive works. Writing in 1984, he noted that the beginning of the 21st century would witness a return to barbarity.

Little remembered or cited today, Frederick L. Schuman possessed similar clarity and consistency of perceptions:

"Human beings have always been impressed by the fleeting character of all things mortal and the eternal and changeless rhythm of birth, fulfillment, and death -- for societies no less than individuals. In epochs of calamity, men easily see in their own frustrations the symptoms of cultural decay. They readily interpret the disasters they both cause and suffer as portents of doom. Whether such gloomy judgments are warranted, and if so to what degree, can only be known by later generations. Communities, like persons, recover from some disorders and die from others. Accurate analysis of causes makes possible a measure of prediction of results. But only time can tell whether any given disease of the body politic will prove transitory or fatal."

(International Politics, The western State System in transition, Frederick L. Schuman, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1933, 1937, 1941 (third edition, fourth impression), no ISBN, p. 667.)

In neither case does clarity and consistency suggest inability or unwillingness to resist or to reject newer or better data and information.

In the north Indian raga, shruti is the bass foundation of tambora, consistent sound, or shabda, on which the improvisations can be anchored. In the context of this commentary, Lukacs and Schuman stand as shruti. Kabir wrote in shabda as, in their own ways, did Lao-tzu, Rumi and Plato. They are anchored in foundations of clarity seemingly esoteric to many.

In the late and much lamented 2004 presidential election campaigns, we were exposed to inundations of upside down language.

Kabir said,

"Saints, I see the world is mad.
If I tell the truth they rush to beat me,
if I lie they trust me. . ."

Kabir says,

"Listen saints:
they are all deluded!
Whatever I say, nobody gets it.
It's too simple."

(Bijak, Shabda 7, p. 44)

Walter Laqueur is a very distinguished historian and author of voluminous tomes long considered worthy of study. Lesser beings shrink in his presence. Over the years he has moved from a chronicler of human rights, terrorism and guerillas through world-class student of fascism into herald of terrorism in both his and its present guise.

The Human Rights Reader, Laqueur and Rubin, editors, first published in 1979 (revised 1989), is a core resource for those needing a thorough grounding in the documents and transitions in human rights. Laqueur also edited The Terrorism Reader and The Guerilla Reader.

I also have in hand A World of Secrets, The Uses and Limits of Intelligence (1985); The Dream That Failed, Reflections on the Soviet Union (1994); Fascism, Past, Present and Future (1996); and No End to War, Terrorism in the Twenty-first Century (2003).

Laqueur is one heavy dude! His influences are pervasive in the world establishments, not the least of which reside in Washington DC in the once United States of America.

Somewhat like Leo Strauss, but with much less public awareness or attention, Laqueur's guidance is notable although unheralded. Much as I can detect Wilhelm Reich's aura in the works of many, although without citation as a rule, Laqueur's presence is also pervasive. Is it a positive factor? Or merely one more upside down element?

In coming commentaries, I will attempt to answer or to crawl around that question.

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This Edition's Internal Links

America Has Left The Building... Part II - by Phil Rockstroh & John Steppling

Terrorism Upgraded To Normality - Walter Laqueur Two - by Milo Clark

Excessive Demands Will Exceed Capabilities - by Philip Greenspan

America's Health Is In Tainted Hands - by Jan Baughman

Johnny Carson - by John Steppling

Boycotting The Hegemony: Part Two, Bechtel - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

The Pledge Of Solidarity - by Manuel García, Jr.

And We Call It The "Paper Of Record!" - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Shakespeare, Playwright Of The Diaspora? - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

Le Chant des Partisans (Song of the Partisans) - by Maurice Druon & Joseph Kessel

Blips #11 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor

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Published January 31, 2005