Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Time To Abdicate. Demit. A/k/a Dimit. The "Legacy" Barrier to Voluntary Step-Downs

When Is It Time To Demit
The Leader's Best Recourse, Historically, at Some Times

Tomislav, Capilyn, Bosnia Changing leaders.  Sometimes violent, sometimes voluntary, sometimes mysterious and suspect circumstances, sometimes planned, orderly; sometimes chaotic. Here, medieval King Tomislav, ruler of the old Croatian Empire, see Bosnia Road Ways. What happened there. 925 AD. Disappeared. Then declared dead. Where the crown? See also Croatia Road Ways, King Tomislav.

Classical leadership, ancient Greece: Peaceful changes in leadership, mostly. Leadership was expected to end.  The Greeks provided that the leader would return to the prior life after service to the public in office, no legacy to be built up, no benefit to be derived from that public office, just the satisfaction of service.  See "Cornerstones of Leadership" at Joy of Equivocating, Classical Leadership. That lays out the qualities that made, to the ancients, great leaders.  After the leading was over, however, the person was expected to quietly bow out.

Modern dilemmas. Does our modern benefit-while-you-are there concept, combined with the ability to spin history by PR to create an even false legacy, keep our leaders from bowing out when they really should. Do we build in an impossible barrier to simply acknowledging that efforts have failed, and another should take over. That affects legacy, and legacy is all?

Leadership Qualities that Allow for the Greater Good.  What qualities of leadership will permit a leader to put the interests of the country ahead of his interest in power or legacy: or to see that his interest in other, perhaps personal, values jeopardizes his ability to serve his country.

Is it always pressure, the unbeatable opposition to the leader himself, that forces abdication. Health issues are understandable: the leader cannot serve for individual reasons beyond his control. Personal priorities? We credit the leader who knows when he cannot put country ahead of personal matters. Thank you for bowing out in time.

But what of the leader who sees no chink in his past patterns, but is confronted with opposition and violent changes in circumstance. Can we expect him to step aside even if he, looking in his own mirror, sees no error. Does the standing aside reveal a kind of singular greatness, that otherwise was eclipsed in day-to-day flawed leadership.

1. The meaning.

Demit is archaic for "to abdicate."

Word roots indicate the long history of concepts. To abdicate. Ab is "away from." Dicare is "proclaim." Proclaim away from. See ://

Also, to renounce, resign, retire, stand down, bow out, vacate, cede, and the rest listed at Highbeam, :// It is also spelled "dimit." See Word Web Online, at ://

Demit: relinquish, to dismiss (again archaic) see Answers at ://

2. Timing is Vital. 
A premature abdication can undermine an entire objective.

See this rough analysis at Action Coach, Business Coaching site: "Delegate, Do Not Abdicate." The idea is that a leader never abdicates and never lets others take over full responsibility.

A great leader instead delegates, keeping overall control of the situation but not the work. That kind of leader need not be forced to abdicate, because there has been supervision, relationship, input, until a solution is found. The relationship requires performance measures and evaluations, reviews. No "abdication." Steady, clear and productive effort and remaining accountable may well mean that no later "abdication" is needed.

3. Where delegation has failed, and abdication is the next step, take it.
It has a venerable history.

Abdication sounds too royal because we think of Edward II and Britain and Wallis Simpson in 1936. How about "demit." The definitions say that is archaic. What is archaic about the word "demit". Its roots are ancient as many words.

Here is more: it comes from the Middle English.

That Middle English designation means, in time, about 1150-1500 AD. See "About Middle English," at ://

It began, then, about the time of the Norman invasion from France - and, more fun, the Normans originally were the "northmen" or vikings that took over northern France, see "The Wrath of the Northmen," at

The Middle English word was demitten; and that came from the Old French. That is logical, since the Normans came over from France. The French said, "demettre," and that came from the Latin. The Romans said, "dimittere" and parsing that comes up with "dis."

Dis. Away. Mittere. Send. Send away. That also is from the Answers site. Or, de-mittere, meaning "down" - send down. See://

4. The Precedent.

History of abdications.

This is an ancient, historic device, honored in its way. It enables a leader to leave before more and irreparable damage is done, by the leadership itself, or by the fact of conditions affecting and driving to it. There is no more time to be spent on delegating to others while keep the leader in place. Another time has come.

Popes have abdicated throughout the history of the church, see Nationmaster Encyclopedia listings at :// Canon law from the 1200's permits it, and it apparently happened several times earlier. Reasons vary - and sound very secular. Bad behavior, or simony, or ill health (this can be opposed because if the person were intended to leave the papacy for that reason, the deity would go ahead and act), or a desire to return to a more monastic life, etc.

King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936, see BBC at :// That was for the love of a lady, Wallis Simpson.

There are other reasons for abdication: pick any.
  • health,
  • insurrection,
  • protest,
  • defeat,
  • political pressure, etc.
See Christina of Sweden, Louis Bonaparte, as well as the other, the Big Napoleon, King Victor Emmanuel, King Charles Emmanuel, Augustus II The Strong, Richard II of England, Mary Queen of Scots, Stanislaus I Leszczynski, King Carol II, Riza Shah Pahlavi, all those and more to the present day at the BBC site.

5. The need.

How bad does it have to be before a leader seriously considers abdication, demitting so another can take over.

Lists abound this New Year's, with weeks still to go and events spiraling and rocketing unaddressed. See summary at "Add Up The Damage," by Bob Herbert, NYT 12/30/08 at A21/. See other summary at Nola site, :// When should we expect a leader to look outside his own assessments. Is that ever possible.

When unhorsed, Richard III sought a horse, and would give his kingdom for one. See Online Literature. See Shakespeare's version at Online Literature, at ://

Our kingdom for leaders.

6. The ease.

Oath now, ceremonials later. Not insurmountable. It is easy to say. I demit. I abdicate. Dignified. Helpful. Now. Is several weeks too unimportant to act now. Maybe. But weigh. If noone is taking leadership, maybe that alone says that leadership is not really needed. Consider. An earlier demit may be the most altruistic, nation-first legacy that a leader can build.

And shall we also put Latin back in the schools? We speak parts of it all the time. Shall we have our children study history and the classics, to have a framework for the present. The past leads to better comprehension of who we are, that we have the same kinds of issues as our forebears, only with more drastic consequences, requiring even close attention.

There is a point where all authority becomes alike once in power.  See Sassafras Tree, Democracy Spread by Roots, Runners, not force.

Open ideas, facts. See what.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Attribution: Before Montessori came Komensky. Educators on Shoulders?

Child-Focused Philosophies of Education.

Who Gets Credit?

Do Innovators Stand On Each Other's Shoulders;
Should that be Vetted; or Do Ideas Really Spring Anew

Here: Vetting Maria Montessori and Jan Amos Komensky a/k/a John Amos Comenius

Attribution is a ticklish issue. Time to vet.

"May Honour be given to whom Honour may be due."  Proverb. See letter of Samuel Adams, October 29, 1777, said to be in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1917, letter LXXII (72), 375, quoted at Answers, ://

There may be opposition to vetting. Are we so centered on the fiction that all things notable stem from the West of Europe, that we do not vet the origins of ideas elsewhere, like Eastern Europe. Or the East, elsewhere.

Here, to whom to attribute the idea that children do not need "instruction" in order to learn - they thrive on their own, following their own interests and fun in exploring, with a dedicated teacher person offering access to a variety of experiences for each child.

Do any ideas really spring unbidden to a gifted mind and blossom thereafter from it; or do ideas root earlier, in matters heard or seen, somewhere, or even by meme, and only later seem to be "original."  Or do great ideas and approaches simply die out, and then truly are either rediscovered, or are re-originated elsewhere, much later.

1.  Maria Montessori.

The Montessori method of education comes to mind here, with Hartford's new magnet school organized pursuant to the Montessori method, see; and write-up at Hartford Courant's ://,0,1577875.photogallery.

Maria Montessori's name identifies the method - and she is a woman of many talents, many recognitions, degrees. She was born in 1871 in Italy. In 1906, after great achievements in other fields including medicine, she focused on "re-engineering the field of children's education." See her biography at NNDB site, "Maria Montessori," at ://

Her recognitions:  an innate drive to learn in children, that they learn well on their own, not just by "instruction," and they learn best when turned loose in an environment offering paths, structures, resources, things to serve and foster their self-motivation. Mix a small range of ages together and they learn from each other, have the teacher focus on each child to prepare the way for the next exposures.

The name itself is not patented, says the NNDB site, so schools with the name may be bare ghosts of the real Method, so buyer beware.

What shoulders did she stand upon, possibly?

2.  Jan Amos Komensky. John Amos Comenius. Many other spellings, many language renditions.

The man known as "teacher of nations," see Babel Web Anthology at :// Just over 200 years earlier, Jan Amos Komensky in Eastern Europe 1590-1670, revolutionized thinking about child development and learning. He is also known as John Amos Comenius, see the Wiki basics at ://

That site only touches upon his philosophy.

He also advocated visuals, concrete examples, not abstract rules, functional learning for words, see overview abstract at Educational Resources Information Center, at ://

He respected children's natural needs and development, see this Pioneers in Education site - however, that apparently provides term papers, so do your own research, and use these only as a springboard for your own ideas, ://  Is this really how people crimp their way through school??

We prefer Radio Prague and its citing of the School as Play, or Schola Ludus - no rigidity in education methods. See "The Wanderer in the Labyrinth," ://

Go to Czech Radio's site for more - see lived most of his life in the Czech Republic. His was a holistic approach to the child and education, see use of that holistic term, but there it stops, at  ://  His approach, depicted as a Sistine-like adult outstretched hand already touching a child's curled hand within its reach, and fingers looking entwined, is on the currency, the korun, see it at Bogomilia, Jan Amos Komensky.

A university in Prague is named for him, see University of Jan Amos Komensky at ://

Conclusion.  Time to vet.  No taking away from Maria Montessori, as perhaps she never heard of John Amos Comenius, Jan Amos Komensky.  But her child-centered ideas, welcome as they were and are, had been laid out earlier, not that far away, and we just should be reminded of that. Europe is not that large, ideas spread, and it would not be unusual for one's reading during one's life would put one in contact with some other ones who went before.

Now: how to find out what actual connections, reading, books, travel, memes, Komensky ideas, may have made an impression on Maria Montessori. All part of appreciating the process of progress. We let good ideas die, then delight in the next person who comes up with it. Fine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The North Liberal Wind and the Sun-Elect. Framing the Contest: Cross-Cultural Translation Issues. Aesop.

Aesop's Fable: The North Wind and the Sun 

I. How Framing the Contest Predetermines the "Winner;"

II.  How Translations Serve a Recipient Culture, Not the Originator


I.  The Fable. See FN 1
(Old Aesop)

Aesop, Traveler, North Wind and the Sun (before) The North Wind and the Sun disputed which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor, who could first s____* a wayfaring man of his c______**.  The North Wind first tried his power, and blew with all his might : but the keener became his blasts, the closer the Traveller wrapped his cloak around him ; till at last, resigning all hope of victory, he called upon  the Sun to see what he could do.  The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveller no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, u________***, and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.
Persuasion is better than force. 

Aesop in Modern Times

The North Liberal Wind and the Sun-Elect disputed which was the most powerful; and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man, the Saddleback Traveler, of his website gaiety prohibition.
The North Liberal Wind first tried its media power, and blew with all its might.

But the keener became the North Liberal Winds' blasts, the closer the Saddleback Traveler wrapped his website prohibition around him; until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the North Liberal Wind called upon the Sun-Elect to see what he could do.
The Sun-Elect suddenly shone out with all his warmth. He even invited the Saddleback Traveler to issue forth an Inaugural Prayer, an Invocation, despite disagreements in theology. No disagreeableness.
The Saddleback Traveler, at last, fairly overcome with heat, took down the gaiety prohibition from the website, and bathed at a stream that lay in his path.
Persuasion is better than force.

II. The Power of the Framer

a. The First to Frame Wins.

Contest results.  This depends on who controls the rules,  The winner is the one who defines the frame of success. What must be done in order to win.

Try these for alternate morals, instead of, "Persuasion is better than force:" Perhaps there are times when force is the only recourse to survival. Is that so?  Or, try these, same story:
Enter only the contests that test your strengths.

Don't set yourself up for failure.

Set yourself up for success.

Entering a contest stacked against:

The North Wind, for example, made some bad choices here. It was a poor choice for him to allow the criteria to be the traveler removing an article. It is in the nature of wind to make people hold cloaks more tightly, not to encourage them to remove a cloak, so the North Where was off to a disadvantage just because he accepted the definition of winning.

  • What if the North Wind had the wits to shape the winning event (here, taking off the cloak, etc) to what that Wind best did -  make people wrap up. The winner then is the Wind - the one who made the traveler wrap up.
b.  Must everything be a contest.
  • Better yet, what if the Wind and the Sun had no contest at all. They are different entities, serve different purposes. Why should they compete? What if they saw they had different strengths, not comparable, and let it go.
  • Or, what if they joined forces instead of conducting a contest. What if they teamed up and looked at the traveler and asked between them an enlightened kind of question:
What if the two protagonists asked about the third party they were manipulating, before they entered into their amusement at the Traveler's expense, who lost time and energy being manipulated.
  • What might be best for the traveler
  • What was the traveler trying to do, and could or should they assist
  • Some wind here, some warmth there, could they alternate flexibly and so serve the traveler (and pursuing some self interest - and why should they do that?)
  • What would the traveler have asked for? 
  • Should a traveler ever be a pawn for others' amusements or competition?
New moral: If your action will manipulate, and exploit, and not help, someone, refrain from acting.
 c.  If we must have contests, be circumspect about the outcome.

Winnership is unstable. It does not last. "Losers" have a way of getting back on top another way.

Even if the Traveler took off his cloak for a swim in the heat, he probably put it, and the rest he had set aside, right back on again. Aesop is setting up his own website, at, we understand, to track further developments in both versions.

What does it take for a permanent change to take place?

d. Word contests. Brevity.

Compare this spare translation from the 19th Century, to the fol-de-rol later in children's books, and other renditions.  No improvement.

3.  Every translation involves cultural changes to make something acceptable to the new audience.

Reading any translation as it goes beyond to new cultures is reading a distortion in some way.

In ancient Greece, wearing nada was fine in certain contexts, more so than today. So the 19th Century translation of what the traveler did, garment removal, would represent accurately what could well take place in Greek culture.

That is no longer the case. The 19th Century translation runs afoul of 21st Century cultural redlining.

We have learned that certain words internetically applied trigger Magic Internet Censors. Look at the words in the reproduced original. Off come the duds.

Here are the rest of the words, shown there with asterisks and lines, in the original 19th Century translation of Aesop in Part I above.

*   trip

** lothes
*** ndressed

Ecessary-nay? Ese-thay ays-days, es-yay.

Trivia. Even this online translation of The North Wind and the Sun at :// 9 (they invite the direct link to the home page, click on the name) changes the original spelling of "traveller" to "traveler."

Aesop's Fables

We also are guilty. We changed the paragraphing in our little second version.

FN 1 Our translation, from the Aesop, text: This framework comes to you from an antique volume entitled. "Fables of Aesop," 300 stories, this one: "The North Wind and the Sun." The collection claims to be a literal translation from the Greek. The translator produced this in the 19th Century. the Rev. Geo. Fyler Townsend, F.A. 1814-1900, see It was published by George Rutledge and Sns, London and New York. Illustrations: by Harrison Weir and engraved by J. Greenaway.
  • Where is the year? A page must be missing; but we see 1846 and 1822 in the Preface and other parts of the book.  Also, a handwritten inscription entry reads: "Compliments of John J. Pfaff Jr Bessie Johnson Indianapolis October 25th 1882".
  • Bessie Johnson. We knew her. Thank you, Bessie. We remember. 

Aesop was a Greek slave, 620 BC to 560 BC. That makes him 60 when he died - think backwards. See many quotes at "The Quotations Page," at :// A healthy, attractive,compliant slave could cost about $180. People were enslaved by a variety of circumstances; there were probably more slaves than Athenian citizens, and their role and conditions widely varied.  Treasury clerks and police (at one point, 300 Scythian archers slaves as police; and the slave secretaries and managers in banking and commerce, as underling positions, see :// were mostly slaves. See "Slavery in Ancient Greece," at ://  "All men are slaves," see the full quotation from an ancient Greek play at "Slavery in Ancient Greece," and read about the name coming from the "Slavs" of Eastern Europe often enslaved, at ://

Friday, December 19, 2008

Transformative Use and Copyright - Another Way of Pay to Play. How Else the Muse?

Spreading the Word - The Sport of Expression
Beyond Pay to Play 

Balancing First Amendment vs. Intellectual Property

How to get the word out. Somebody does a great job at expressing something. Then that Somebody says, "Cain't Touch This."* 

To what extent can you touch it? How can someone else get the word out?

Imagine a fencing match. Go to Sword Academy at ://  How to approach the bout and let the muse out.

I. Enter, Copyright.  

En garde, says the creator of a work, flourishing its sword. No infringements allowed. See Title 17 of the US Code at ://, brought to you by the U.S. Copyright Office. And the punishment is damages.

Click on the text version, easier to read than the PDF.

See how copyright overall protects the integrity of the original expressive work of the writer, and prevents incursion by others into the money-making element of creativity.

Read a narrative overview of what is and isn't a violation or infringement, at "10 Big Myths About Copyright" by Brad Templeton at :// There is a No to "derivative use," but a cautions yes to "fair use."  Fair use is allowed for purposes valued by the society, that counterbalance the purpose of reward to the creator.

And much else. This is not an easy field. Even direct linking to a site can be a violation, maybe, see the summary section at the Templeton site. Minefield. What is yours, mine, ours.

Nonetheless: Words and their organization are property, protected beyond the ink-paper-electronic screen-tablet-scroll-skin on which they appear. The work itself is "property" - intellectual property.

II. Parry and Thrust - Fair use:  

Touche! Responds the opponent, the aspiring user of the work.  Certain proper contacts are allowed, as in fencing, and garner points. But there is a narrow target zone - the game is exhausting, much panting. See "How to Play" at ://

That is Fair Use talking. 

Fair Use is not part of the original statutory scheme, but was developed by courts (common law idea) over time. 

See its overview by the U.S. Copyright Office at :// Important factors in deciding if a use is fair, and not punishable as an infringement, are the
  • purpose, 
  • nature, 
  • amount, and 
  • effect
of the use. So there are enumerated exceptions to legal infringement.  These can be acceptable: merely some copying the work for personal noncommercial use, or quotations for illustration or reviews, or use for criticism.

All fair use must carry attribution - who and where is the original source - giving credit where credit is due.
So, some infringements are not "infringements." A user exercising first amendment speech rights, see "Freedom of Expression at the National Endowment of the Arts" at ://, may do some piggy-backing for various reasons, in various contexts, short of total lift-off.

III.  What is allowed if not "fair use?" 
A.  Look back at the Objective - Protection of the Creator, Remuneration, Attribution. 

The social purpose of copyright law, statute and case law, is to foster creativity; and provide for its reward where others think it has merit and want to use the work. Copyright is supposed to pay the wordsmith, in the case of text, for example.  Copyright sets up criteria for infringement, and the means of payment for and enforcement of protection for the work, enabling further creativity. Without copyright, Grinches could otherwise bodysurf upon the work to their own success.**

B. Look back at the traditional Method of Accomplishing the Objective:  Pay to Play

Copyright is pay to play. It provides a means of financial reward for the nano-second, or hours and years of the writer's effort, perhaps as a pauper in the attic, behind that work. It enables the writer to be self-supporting, and more, perhaps, without which the writer would not, could not, should not be expected, to work. With remuneration, society is supposed to benefit because the creativity goes on. It prevents "derivative" works and other uses, but sometimes lines blur.

C.  Is that enough?  Is Traditional Pay to Play too limiting in its effect? Dysfunctional in preventing beneficial dissemination?  

Some uses should be in the commercial sphere, because of the exposure there, the potential benefit to a culture of the dissemination perhaps.  Do courts have too little leeway in areas where there are indeed gray areas between traditional infringement that is prohibited, and fair use, that gets wussy. Are these extremes of infringement or fair use too great. Are ideas with social value, that would be best laid out more directly than mere personal or little-quotes applications, instead kept in the zoo.

Where could those ideas go, if loosed in other environments. Think perhaps of a cure for arthritis, translated into English from Coaxtlinglischteifesse. If the remedy depends upon exact reproduction, and the translator refuses to release it, the cure for arthritis languishes unused.

Is that analogous?  Is the choice for courts between 

a)  infringement - "don't touch this" and if you do, I get damages; or

b) fair use - "just touch this little itty-bit" and then no payment is required at all, but the work stays underexposed-

too stark. If an idea has social merit, how to get it out there if the Originator refuses?

The choice is indeed too absolute: a "draconian binary," says John Tehranian at "Whither Copyright? Transformative Use, Free Speech and an Intermediate Liability Proposal," at Social Science Research Network at ://

IV.  Expand the concepts.  
Apply Transformative Use.

Here is a discussion of a Proposed Solution to Dissemination for Social Benefit; or Even Commercial Use:  Transformative Use.

John Tehranian, see  the "Whither Copyright" site above, elaborates on a way for expression to be used, to a degree, by others even in a commercial context, with protections for the creator.

"Transformative use" means that the next creative person in line could piggyback to a degree, make some money even, and the protection for the Originator-in-Chief would be this. Get 50% of the net profits, or some such idea. This would be an "intermediate liability scheme" - available where there is not clear infringement, but more is happening than mere fair use.
  • Transformative Use as Already Seeded in Law.
 That category of the transformative use allows courts to move beyond the Full Stop.

That means interest-balancing is allowed.

Balancing of interests is a cornerstone of our legal system, and the way for opposing cultural interests to coexist rather than mutually eradicate. Balancing public against private interests is part of government functioning already, and is not free-wheeling. The interests must be identified, and connections made, see the Human Rights Initiative site at ://

In torts, where people sue each other for negligent behavior causing injury, interest-balancing is part of the court's or jury's deliberations, with varying degrees of success depending on the view of the beholder. This is no cure-all.

Look at "The Notion of an Ideal Audience in Legal Argument," by George C. Christie at page 171, from a google book at This is the address, and is not a direct link.
  • Interest-balancing in transformative thinking is not a perfect world.  
Interests are complicated, hard to identify, disputable as to weight to be ascribed. Still, how else to get between black and white?  Gray it is and ever shall be. Still, is there recourse where there is room for a balancing, for finding the midground in appropriate cases between can't-touch-this and permit-the-itty-bit?  Try transformative use.

This is like unblocking the lending machines.

Open the flow of credit in the creativity area. 

The transformative use is not an unlimited, unaccountable bail-out -  it provides instead for adult supervision of uses on the playground, regulation, while serving a greater societal need for energy in ideas.
  • Still, it is progress.  More sources:  "Copyright, Fair Use and Transformative Critical Appropriation," by David Lange and Jennifer Lange Anderson, at ://; recognition of the new utility of transformative use at "Fair Use: Overview and Meaning for Higher Education," by Kenneth D. Crews, at ://; and "Recent Copyright Cases" from the Office of the Provost at ://
V.  Conclusion:  

Explore transformative use, when fair use is too restrictive, and doesn't get the word out, infringement's punishments are terrifying, and yet there is a social benefit to use even with commercial use.  The idea wants out. From the rapier to the German seven thrusts. From the foil, to the epee, to the sabre. Fence! See The Record at ://

Share any net profits equally with the Originator In Chief, and the Piggy-Backer can also be creative with the idea.

The creativity bouts continue.

*  See "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer at :// or in a given setting, at :// Personal use, transient, noncommercial joy of it.

Even memorize the words and sing along. See ST Lyrics at ://

But can you reform each line, blur the format, change spelling to "cain't", separate out each syllable and separate them by squiggles and symbols and dots, make no reference to the video or the audio elements at all, and come up with such a different organization of those words, that new meaning emerges when the lines as given are no longer lines at all but part of a new totality, a run-on. Issues of copyright.

Here, common sense says that "Can't touch this," as a phrase can be used as fair use with attribution, as a small part of the totality, see all the lyrics and see the video and audio all of which go to the real communication, the real expression of the artist. A partial bumbled abbreviated title (omitting the essential "U," and the parsed understood subject, "You," not its trendy equivalent, and hashing the spelling) alone seems fair, with the attribution.  Don't sue.  I'll change it if MC Hammer sics the lawyers. We are just making a point here. Oh, if I had a hammer.... Who let the muse out. See "Ancient History" at About, ://


** ** Side diversion: What if the nature of true creativity is its own reward, that there are some who are not primarily motivated by cash resulting. Need the surfer pay such a pure wave?

What if the wave would have rolled anyway, because it is in its nature to roll. How to pay such a wave on which the rider benefits?

Keep the oceans clean? Yes. Then more surfers will surf and the wave benefits even though it did not ask.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Manicheanism: Philosophy Turned Weapon

Manicheanism in History and Today

I. Evil vs Good originally as a context for understanding,
the need to work with evil toward the good;

II. Used Now to Justify Violence against the Perceived Threatening Other

Current trigger:

Manicheanism is, in rough summary, dualistic thinking. It morphed from its historical descriptive roots, explaining the good v. evil context of living, to its derivation - because I define my view as good and yours as evil, I am justified in eradicating you and your view. For Manichean writings from the gnostic era, see the Gnostic Library at :// /read there the hymns, the psalms, parables and scriptures to get an idea of the strength of this group, even until recent times; and the anti-Manichean writings of Augustine.

Example today: Big Bailout TARP and the Big 3 Automakers. Southern state bloc Senate defeat of an Auto Industry bailout. Is this true: That dualistic thinking delivered the outcome. And dualistic thinking manifests in partisanship: issues shall be framed as absolutes, and any step necessary to advance the perceived interests of A, self-identified by A as good; against the perceived aspirations of B, defined by A as evil; serves A. Add punishment and control.

Is that how it works? Examine the roots of dualism, Manichean thinking, the great either-or, the idea that if you get something, then I by definition have lost something, because the quantum of benefit is fixed.

This is the new Manicheanism, a distortion of an earlier philosophy and approach. It is Mis-Manicheanism. Partisanship.

So what happened to classical Manicheanism? How did it turn into Partisanship?

I. Evil vs. Good as a context for understanding.

Manicheanism sees the world as the product of good and evil forces in constant tension. The human solution confronted with this context, is to work with evil toward good, acknowledging the eternal dual forces within, and also knowing "evil" cannot be "killed" - only contained, expelled from given settings.

A. Origins.

Mani. The name of a man. He lived in 3rd Century AD in Baghdad, and was a "Buddhist-influenced ascetic", who used a dualistic approach to explain the workings of the world. But with an essential difference from simply pitting Good vs. Evil.

For Mani, according to this 2004 History News Network site below, good and evil were not involved in some eternal struggle for dominance.

Instead, the existence of both good and evil created the context within which each person could identify the good and evil within, and foster the struggle to allow good to dominate.

The idea of reducing everything to two sides - us and them, good and evil, is not new. Who is or is not a Manicheist in that overall discussion, however, is open to debate.

It is worth looking into because that philosophy articulated a relationship between good and evil that has since been forgotten, or misstated. Dichotomies are not new, but our use of the concept Manicheanism for a simplistic me good you bad, I kill you, is ill-placed.

Manicheism articulates a connection.

B. Early religious evolutions.

Evil vs. Good evolved into a battleground description obligating those who self-identified as Pure Good to eradicate those they identified as Pure Evil.

Is this true: that a necessary, intrinsic violence approach is how it is seen today, with those identifying themselves as Pure Good then justifying what they do to others, the Pure Evil, as merely part of the struggle. It is an obligation to subjugate the identified Evil, destroy it.

1. Elements of this dualistic thinking are seen in the disputed creation account in the Apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas, see Martin Luther's Stove, Gospel of Barnabas, disputed because it may be a later forgery made and disseminated in 15th Century Venice or so in order to draw connections between the Christian and Islamic traditions. Or were there earlier root documents since lost?

Still read it to see the thinking. And for a view of how Islam and Christianity see each other.

Read it also for the irony: that people and institutions that begin by rejecting Manicheanism, many times then fall into a distorted version of it.Before rejecting the Gospel of Barnabas, read a supportive site also, at "The Gospel of Barnabas", site by R. Blackhirst at La Trobe University in Australia, at ://

Do later anachronisms, evident even in a surface reading in the Gospel of Barnabas, taint the entirety? Manicheans would say yes - it has to be all good or all evil. Is that so?

2. Consider that the Roman Church in early times, that rejected the Manicheans, itself was thinking in a Manichean way - we are right, and they are wrong, and they be damned.

B. Manicheanism was indeed declared "heresy" early on -

See an overview at ://, with details about how things were supposed to work. Manicheanism was specifically rejected when Church officials back in the 5th century were deciding who was in and who was out as to the evolving canon of books accepted for the official party-line "Bible" - the forging of ideology, at

II. Manicheanism then used to justify violence

A. This Manicheanism was a matter of context, the world in which we operate as being in conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

B. Yet, this is not how it is represented.

In history, Manichean thinking in history is used differently.

It evolved as a justification for those who declare themselves good, to kill those it declares evil. Manicheanism moved into force: the dualism that then projects, and justifies exterminations in the name of "good."

Is this Mr. Bush? It had been Mr. McCain in his weaker presentations and continues to appears to be Ms. Palin, who we hope is now out. See Manichean Candidate, Rage of Polarized Followers.

C. Go back to the era of the Crusades and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, scroll down at
  • "If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but a killer of evil."
  • "The Christian glories in the death of the pagan."
Call someone an evildoer and it is then acceptable ok to kill him. Excommunicate the nonbeliever. Expel the Jews. Blame them. Us vs. Them. We cannot be surprised at this latent attitude among us - eradicate the Other - cultural values perpetuate and become habit.

III. Put Manicheanism back in its constructive context:

A complex totality of the purposeful interaction of good and evil

Manicheanism sees the ideal human function as working with evil toward good, instead of fruitlessly trying to eradicate it. Look it up - even God simply threw the fallen Angel out, could not or would not kill him.

That idea may well be on target if we are to live with others we disagree with - it is certainly not the caricature we have made of it as a simple squaring off.

Practical application: The real Manichean would work with evil toward good. Our culture kills evil if it claims it has identified it - as in capital punishment.

Back to the real Manichean approach. Even he Deity in western christian creation theology refrained from killing Cain for murder. Why do we then go so happily to apply capital punishment. Merely expelled the Dark Angel, we are told. No killing. Killing for revenge came long after Eden - man-made. Do we put our judgment better than even the Deity, for those who believe. Blue book question. Start writing. Bill Maher, next flick.