W.P. Norton

Archive for January, 2016|Monthly archive page

Saving Islam’s wisdom of peace

In W.P. Norton on January 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

mali msAmbassadors of Peace in a Circle of Knowledge sitting around a Palaver Tree will not leave until they have resolved their differences.
(c) The Malian Manuscript Foundation

Who knew that Islamic thought includes hundreds of thousands of tracts covering such subjects as astronomy, animal rights, Islamic law and practice, philosophy and women’s rights.

According to Sarah Kershaw’s Washington Post report, the works cover such subjects as “astronomy, animal rights, Islamic law and practice, philosophy and women’s rights.”

I say again: Who knew?

Hardline Islamist fighters have already burned more than 4,000 of the nearly 1 million manuscripts written over the centuries and preserved in Timbuktu, Mali.

Filmmaker and entrepreneur Michael Covett is working hard to get out the message that these manuscripts must be saved.

An effort is underway to digitize the Mali manuscripts. Covett’s  Malian Manuscript Foundation is spearheading the cause.

What fascinates me is the parallel: during the so-called Dark Ages of Europe, literacy virtually disappeared and the classics of Hellenic philosophy and drama were ignored for centuries. But Islamic civilization preserved it all. It is my understanding that there would have been no Renaissance, no Age of Enlightenment, without the rediscovery of the preserved wisdom of the classics–works that had been carefully preserved by scholars during the high water-mark of Islamic civilization.

The Mali manuscripts may not turn the tide against the militant movement to turn the world into a caliphate. But their preservation is a critical imperative to save for history’s sake the pacifist, humanist wisdom of a civilization at its peak.


Anne Garrels, Interrupted

In W.P. Norton on January 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Anne Garrels

Moscow, maybe 1994: Drinking coffee with Anne Garrels. Now, she was real down-to-earth, intense, curiosity-driven. We were talking about the first Chechnya war (she, I and this very young married couple who worked for AFP down there).

I never went to Chechnya and the only combat action I had seen as a reporter was in downtown Moscow in October of 1993, when Yeltsin sent tanks and troops to crush the parliamentary uprising.

Anyway, Anne was in the middle of this deeply involved anecdote about how the Russians were “shelling the shit out of this village, when –” and my friend Peter kept interrupting her with something off-topic.n

She kept trying to bring it back to her point. At least three more times, she got out the words “shelling the shit out of … “ but Peter wouldn’t let her finish. She never acted the least bit phased, though.

Peter later showed me mugshots of the faces of dozens of slain Chechen men, given to him in the field by people who hoped that the photos would be seen by family members for purposes of identification. That night, lying down to sleep, the faces of the dead appeared to me. Their eyes were nearly half open.

The affluenza of Ethan Couch

In W.P. Norton on January 7, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Three cheers for Sarah Kershaw’s witty, deeply researched piece on the so-called #affluenza phenomenon. You can read it here in the Guardian.

The word “affluenza” has been with us for more than a century, Kershaw reports. But it’s back in the news in the US in the case of Ethan Couch, who fled to to Mexico to escape 10 years of probation four killing four people driving drunk when he was underage.

The lenient defense stemmed from the presentation of Couch as a lost little rich boy who had been given no boundaries by his parents and therefore knew not what he was doing and deserved the court’s coddling.

He got it, but fled to Mexico anyway, where he is, at the moment, in detention, awaiting extradition back to the states, where he could serve 40 years hard time as an adult — 10 years for each person who died in the crash he caused while driving drunk.

%d bloggers like this: