30 luglio 2006

Rioting fans set toilets on fire in Brazil

By Brian Homewood

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 30 (Reuters) - Rioting Gremio supporters set fire to portable toilets, twice forcing their team's match away to arch-rivals Internacional to be interrupted on Sunday.

Play was halted as a thick plume of black smoke rose over the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre and firemen fought the blaze behind one of the goals.

The trouble broke out at halftime when the visiting Gremio fans threw around half a dozen plastic portable toilets into the moat which separates the field from the crowd and set them alight.

Television pictures showed policemen using fire extinguishers attempting to put out the blaze as play was stopped.

Although the game was re-started, the situation got worse as the smoke blew over the stadium and the referee ordered another stoppage shortly afterwards.

This time, the fire brigade arrived and brought the blaze under control despite being pelted with objects by the Gremio fans.

Gremio supporters continued dancing and celebrating on the terraces even as the smoke blew over them.

As the fire was put out, police fired teargas at the fans and brought the situation under control.

There was also trouble before the match as Gremio fans broke down part of a fence and invaded the area reserved for Internacional supporters.

Television pictures showed rival fans punching and kicking each other before truncheon-wielding riot police chased the Gremio fans back into their section.

The match itself ended in a drab goalless draw in which the teams shared 50 fouls.

29 luglio 2006


Mythmaking can be counted among the most ancient and most universal human activities. Every culture uses some form of mythology to provide itself general parameters from within which it can explain itself to itself and to its progeny. Myths need to define the purpose of life, i.e. the reason we find ourselves "here" in our current situation, and must create a basis for understanding the things we fear, so that we will be able and willing to fight those evils which threaten us. In the course of mythologizing reality, demonization is a tool used to dichotomize reality, to define good and evil, and to motivate the members of our group to strive for those things which provide us with survival and prosperity.

Demonization has been used in mythology throughout the course of human history. It is very much a part of human life throughout the world every day. When James Wolsey, former Director of the CIA, said recently that the United States is currently fighting World War Four, he was alluding to the fact that what America is fighting in the Middle East, not just Iraq, is a world created by a mythology that demonizes non-Moslems (infidels) as intrinsically evil people who must be destroyed or converted. All attempts to dialogue with radically fundamentalist Moslems are swept aside, unheard, because they know from their mythology that all infidels belong to the Great Satan. Here, I wish to treat demonization as it has been used in the Black Muslim movement and in the Brahminical religion of India.

The common ground of all members in the Nation of Islam was that they were black. This skin color entailed oppression at the hands of the whites. Naturally, their enemy, the character in their demonology, was the white man. In vilifying the white man, everything that was his had to be naturally evil, and any evil he did had to be in his nature. The Nation of Islam took an uncompromising stance that all white men were inherently evil.

This vilifying of the white race gave the Nation of Islam a mission, which they proclaimed was divine. They claimed that the white man, in a final act to brainwash and subjugate the Negro, had given him the Christian religion, which, in the words of Malcolm X:

[H]as taught us to shout and sing and pray until we die, to wait until death, for some dreamy heaven-in-the-hereafter, when we’re dead, while this white man has his milk and honey in the streets paved with golden dollars right here on this earth!

While the teachings of Islam, rather, Elijah Muhammed’s own interpretation of those teachings, could convert a black Christian to the Nation of Islam, they could not explain why the white man was inherently evil. To do that, Elijah Muhammed would have to rely on his imagination.

This history, called Yacub’s History, was "the demonology that every religion has." It explained the origins of the white man and his evil nature, how the evil of the whites had prevailed over the black people, or Original Man, and how slavery and rape of the black race had come about.

As the story goes, the black race was the first race, who worshipped Allah and founded Mecca, a holy city of Islam. Over 6,000 years ago, when there had apparently been much learning in colleges and universities, a disgruntled black scientist named Yacub learned the methods of "race breeding." His purpose was one of vengeance against Allah for banishing him from Mecca, and in retribution, he decided "to create upon the earth a devil race - a bleached-out, white race of people."

In the course of 800 years, by following rules which only allowed the lightest-skinned people to breed, the evil white race had been created. Malcolm X describes this race according to the Nation of Islam’s demonology:

On the island of Patmos was nothing but these blond, pale-skinned, cold-blue-eye devils – savages, nude and shameless; hairy, like animals, they walked on all fours and they lived in the trees.

The purpose of these devils was to create destroy the black, Muslim community, and in time they "turned what had been a peaceful heaven on earth into a hell torn by quarreling and fighting." The black race decided to exile the whites to the caves of Europe, to live in diabolical savagery. Then, for some reason, Allah picked Moses to civilize the white race and lead them out of the caves; this information is recorded in book of Moses which "are missing." The Jews of the Exodus symbolize the first white race to be led out of the caves.

In time, the whites rose to power, and Allah picked some of his faithful blacks in Africa to "be brought as slaves to North America - to learn to better understand....the white devil’s true nature." According to the Elijah Muhammed, the enslaved blacks soon lost their faith, were brainwashed by Christianity, and have been oppressed by the whites ever since. To reconcile African-Americans with their true roots and true faith, the "Savior" W.D. Fard was sent to America as an instructor. His follower, Elijah Muhammed, spent his life spreading Fard’s teachings, to save the "Lost-Found Nation of Islam....., here in ‘this wilderness of North America.’"

If a doubter had asked Elijah Muhammed, Malcolm X, or another Nation of Islam minister why this historical information was just now being revealed, the answer was that "the real truth was known to some white men, the scholars; but there had been a conspiracy down through the generations to keep the truth from black men." Within this circular argument, history cannot be disputed. However, it was historical fabrication of an angry mind, which was not taught anywhere in Islam of the East. Malcolm X described reactions to this story that he observed in Mecca:

I was later to learn that Elijah Muhammed’s tales, like this one of ‘Yacub, infuriated Muslims of the East. While at Mecca, I had reminded them that it was their fault, since they hadn’t done enough to make real Islam known in the West. Their silence left a vacuum into which any religious faker could step and mislead our people.

Thus, the leaders of the Nation of Islam concocted a wild, unprovable yet undisputable world history which explained that whites were inherently evil, and it was the destiny of the black race to throw off the white man’s yoke - culture, religion, lifestyle - and return to their Muslim roots. This gave black Muslims an enemy in the whites, and a salvific mission among the blacks. That this mythology is an absolute tissue of fictions is irrelevant to those who choose to believe it.

In the myths of the Brahmanical religion of India, we see another example of history revised. This history is different from that of the Nation of Islam in that it was not created by the oppressed to liberate themselves from the oppressors, in fact it was the exact opposite, a history created by the oppressors to dupe the oppressed into believing that they deserved the terrible treatment and oppression of the higher castes. The common elements these revised histories share is an explanation of who is evil, an explanation of the current quality of life, and a mission to improve the oppressed people’s lives, either here and now on Earth, or through reincarnation into a higher caste.

This myth of the Brahmans is the Aryan invasion. While modern historians have shown that an Aryan "invasion" did occur, it was less of a single invasion than a migration of peoples into India over a thousand or so years. In the Brahmanical version, the Aryan conquerors led huge armies through the mountains to conquer the native Indian peoples. These Aryan conquerors were the gods, and the conquered peoples became the oppressed lower castes.

Jotirao Phule was one of the earliest activists for Dalit liberation in India. Writing in the late 19th Century, he made a parallel between the oppression of the blacks in America and the Dalits, or Shudras, in India:

The arguments of the brahmans have been implanted so firmly on the minds of the shudras that they, like the Negro slaves in America, oppose the very people who are willing to fight for them, and free them from the chains of slavery.

In his efforts to convert "brainwashed" black Americans to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X had to denounce and destroy anything that whites had "implanted" in their minds, and the main target was Christianity. Offering the Islamic faith as a religious alternative, even as the black man’s destiny, served to cut the roots of any white religious or cultural norms that the "brainwashed" blacks had accepted to be true.

While the Nation of Islam created a new, revised, and false history for African-Americans, Phule’s mission was to dispel the old and untruthful history which was told to the Dalits by the Brahmans. For the Nation of Islam, a new, albeit mythical, history could liberate the oppressed African-Americans, because it explained the inherent evil of whites. In the case of Phule and the Dalits he was fighting for, the mythical history of India was the tool of the oppressors, and the liberator’s mission was to dispel the ancient falsehoods. Thus, a fabricated history can be used to liberate or oppress the downtrodden, depending on who that history deems to be good, and who it deems to be evil.

Brahmanical history teaches that the leaders of the Aryan invasion were gods, and that their mission was to destroy the original inhabitants of India, the present-day Dalits, because as lower castes they were inherently evil. One example is the god Parashuram, who let the Brahmans in a genocidal campaign of the kshatriyas, the original inhabitants of India. Phule states:

We feel that the brahmans considered Parashuram’s dastardly act of wiping out the kshatriyas from the face of the earth, not just once but twenty-one times, as a great heroic deed; this included the merciless massacre of the young babies and infants as well!....It is really surprising that though Parashuram had wreaked havoc on the kshatriyas by ruthlessly massacring them, the brahmans compelled the shudras and atishudras [lowest castes] to address the tyrant as the all-powerful God and as the Creator of the entire Universe.

In the Brahmanical religion, a person’s goal in life is to perform their caste and gender specific duties, or dharma, well enough so that they will be reincarnated into a higher caste. Moreover, it teaches that a person's lot in this life was earned by their actions in the previous life, thus being deserved. For a Shudra (lowest class) or Atishudra (somehow lower than the lowest class) to rebel against the Brahmans is to invite the possibility of being reincarnated in a future life with an even worse status. This is the mental slavery which would cause the lower castes to fight against their liberators. To liberate these people mentally, reformers like Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Kancha Ilaiah have deemed it an absolute necessity to throw out the Brahmanical religion and mythical history.

The social roles of the oppressed in both the United States and India gave them a sub-human status. The very fact that the Atishudras were too low to be even included in the caste system, literally rendered them "out-castes." Their social situation is strikingly similar to the role of being a "non-man" described by Richard Wright in his autobiographical Black Boy. In order to liberate the oppressed, leaders rose among them, using revised and mythical histories in whichever manner circumstance dictated.

The Nation of Islam fabricated a story of world history, which explained the origins of races and of evil by demonizing the white man. The black Muslim who believed this was empowered with a sense of mission to open the eyes of his fellow brothers who were still brainwashed by the white man. In India, mythical history was used for centuries to demonize and oppress the Dalits, by declaring them to be enemies of the gods, and forcing them into a position of servitude to the semi-divine Brahmans. To liberate these people, historical myth had to be dispelled, and the yoke of Brahmanical religion cast off.

Thus, mythical history and demonization of a specific group is a powerful tool which can alter a person’s perceptions of his neighbors, and dictate the mission of his life.

28 luglio 2006

Favorite Note

What do you consider to be the best single note in rock history? A note, that when you hear the song, you are listening and waiting for that specific note because you love it, and it does something to you - sparks some emotion or feeling in your soul. This can be a guitar note, bass note, piano, even vocal.

Name the artist and song, and if you know the name of the note, or even where it is played on whatever instrument, list that as well.

My favorite note of all time is found in Any Colour You Like, by Pink Floyd, from the album Dark Side of the Moon. It is the first electric guitar note of the song, and comes in at the 1:19 mark of the song. After listening to some amazing synthesizer/organ for the first minute and 18 seconds, this note kicks off one of the best electric guitar duets in rock history.

27 luglio 2006

Proclaiming Christ in the Amazon

Interview With Bishop Castriani

TEFE, Brazil, JULY 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Sergio Eduardo Castriani is no stranger to the jungle.

He is the bishop of the Tefe Prelature, which extends over an area the size of mainland Italy and is located in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon region.

In this excerpt of his interview with ZENIT, Bishop Castriani, 52, speaks of the beauty and challenges of being the head of this jurisdiction.

In general, the population lives on the banks of the rivers that flood during the rainy season. They are descendants of the rubber workers and chestnut sellers. About three-quarters of the 215,000 inhabitants are Catholic, served by 14 priests.

Q: How is Jesus Christ and the Church's message presented to the natives?

Bishop Castriani: Virtually all the native groups already have or have had for centuries contact with the Church; that is, the Church is not just arriving there now.

With very rare exceptions, these native groups, including the nomads, who are also the most isolated, have already had contact with the Church. This contact has come about through an evangelization which at times has been a bit hasty, through sacramentalization and through devotions.

Because of this, the majority of the native groups are Catholic in the sense that they have been baptized. They have Catholic devotions and feel themselves part of the Church. A work of evangelization is being carried out with them, taking into account their identity and history, but it is an endeavor of evangelization to deepen the faith, that is, to believe in Jesus Christ and at the same time to continue to be natives, preserving their culture.

It is different with those who still have their traditional religion. They are groups in which people approach the Church with respect but with an attitude of dialogue. And dialogue presupposes that I am truly very convinced of what I believe, but that I respect that which the other believes.

It is, in the first place, a dialogue of life, that is, of coexistence, of humanly respecting one another and then, little by little, of revealing their own interior, creed, and of not having papers written ahead of time.

That is, when one enters into dialogue, one does not know what point will be reached, because if dialogue is to convince the other to adhere to one's own faith, then it isn't dialogue, it is proselytism. Only God knows where dialogue will end, and it is he who knows how much time will be necessary.

Q: What is the situation of sects in the Amazon? Is there concern?

Bishop Castriani: It is a concern as it is in the rest of Brazil. I think that in the Amazon the presence is less compared to other areas of Brazil. Although many have abandoned the Church, not all have; they are not the majority.

Moreover, our communities and churches are full; we have much work in the Amazon, the Church is very alive, with many young people, many guides; people want to study, to learn, to participate.

There is also a vocational movement that is beginning to work very well. It is a paradoxical situation, in the sense that there is an invasion of these religious movements but there is also a great rebirth in the Catholic Church.

It is difficult to know where it will end, but I don't believe in a conquest of the Amazon by Protestant churches and Pentecostalism, I believe this has a limit. However, all the Pentecostal churches look to the Amazon; they invest, send people and have a plan to conquer the area.

07 luglio 2006

"As Well"

Why does this mean "also" in the English language? What does "also" or "too" have to do with "as well." As well should describe health or something. Just a thought to ponder. I always try to literally translate phrases in other languages... bad habit but sometimes interesting. Often I am confused, "why do say this when they mean that?!" Well, here is an example in English that I've been unconscious of for 25 years!