Sunday, May 21, 2006

Grandpa Harley's Dictionary #1

Conservative - 1A person with a pallid pink brain that waits to be offended and then complains loudly that something has gone beyond their milk toast sensibilities
2Someone with a surgically removed sense of humour and perspective.
3 An anally retentive individual that was toilet trained at gun point with lots of shouting.
4A belief set that means one knows what the Lord would do if he had the facts of the matter (see 'Fanatic')
5A person who, having no imagination, thinks no-one else should have one either and will kill to maintain that belief.

Theology and myth

First up, one of my Ambrose Bierce moments led to this pithy comment in a conversation

Theology - The science of trying to work out what God thinks. Physics for the mathematically challenged or follower of Aristotle.
Which struck a few harmonics about ego, resulting in this

[The addition of ego results in] my preference for the non-Theist God. That way we're not making God in our image, which seems to be the point of Theology, making a god we're comfortable with. Even the most despotic OT versions of God are comfortably human, since we understand jealousy and anger. We can't grasp a non-intelligent god.
which then led to a musing on the point of myth

If Jesus had whelped 35 bastard offspring, spent every night buggering John the Beloved and it was Simon who got nailed to the cross, it really doesn't change the myth, since that what it is... myth. Myths don't NEED to be true, they just are. It's when folk try to prove them was correct in every Jot and Tittle you end up with some of the MAJOR arseholes on The OOZE calling everyone heretic and flouncing off if people can't see their innate wisdom to return in 48 hours as though they'd not made a great long exit speech about how everyone hates them. [Any OOZE regulars will] know who I'm talking about there.
Why does the modern mind have such a problem with 'myth'. There is minimal evidence that the Greeks or the Romans believed in the literal existence of their man-Gods as anything more than illustrative of a principle. Same with the Northern European pantheon. People seemed to grasp that they were worshipping an idea, not God's only little boy in the sky.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rabe, Foley and Schindler

Three men... one a German, one Britsh, one a Pole. Two card carying Nazis, one of whom beleived that Hitler was Germany's last best hope and was declared a living Buddha.

John Rabe

(from Wiki)
(November 23, 1882January 5, 1950) was a German businessman who rescued more than 250,000 Chinese from slaughter during the Nanjing Massacre.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Rabe pursued a career in business and went to Africa for several years. In 1908 he left for China, and in 1910 he began work for the Siemens AG China Corporation in Beijing and later Nanjing. During the siege of Nanjing in November 22, 1937, Rabe, along with other foreign nationals, organized the International Committee and drew up Nanjing Safety Zone to provide Chinese refugees with food and shelter upon the impending Japanese slaughter. The zones were located on all of the foreign embassies and at Nanjing University. Rabe also opened up his properties to help 650 more refugees. The following massacre would kill more than 250,000 people, while Rabe and his zone administrators tried frantically to stop the atrocities. Although he tried to appeal to the Japanese by using his Nazi membership credentials, this had little effect.

On February 28, 1938 Rabe left Nanjing, travelling to Shanghai and then back to Germany. He showed films and photographs of Japanese atrocities in lecture presentations in Berlin and wrote to Adolf Hitler to use his influence to persuade the Japanese to stop any more inhumane violence. However, Rabe was detained and interrogated by the Gestapo. Due to the intervention of Siemens AG, he was released. He was allowed to keep evidence of the massacre, excluding the film, but was not allowed to lecture or write on the subject. Rabe would continue working for Siemens, which posted him briefly to the safety of Afghanistan. Until 1945 Rabe worked in the Berlin headquarter of the company.

After the war, Rabe was denounced for his Nazi Party membership and arrested by the Russians first and then by the British. However, following investigations exonerated him of any wrongdoing. He was formally "de-Nazified" by the Allies in June 1946 but lived in poverty. Rabe was partly supported by the monthly food and money parcels sent by the Chinese government for his actions during the Rape of Nanjing. In 1950, Rabe died of a stroke. In 1997 his tombstone was moved from Berlin to Nanjing where it received a place of honour at the massacre memorial site.

His war-time diaries are published in English as The Good Man of Nanking (original German title: Der gute Deutsche von Nanking) ([1]).

Frank Foley
(From Wiki)

Captain Francis (Frank) Edward Foley (1884 in Highbridge, Somerset – 1958 in Stourbridge) was a British secret service agent. According to (see [[1]]), he was a Roman Catholic of Irish descent.

During the 1930s, Foley worked as a passport control officer in Berlin as cover for his role as head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) station in the city, acquiring key details of German military research and development.

He is primarily remembered as a "British Schindler". Using his cover as a Passport Control Officer in Berlin during the 1920s and 30s, he helped thousands of Jews escape from Nazi Germany. At the 1961 trial of former ranking Nazi Adolf Eichmann, he was described as a "Scarlet Pimpernel" for the way he risked his own life to save Jews threatened with death by the Nazis. Despite having no diplomatic immunity and being liable to arrest at any time, Foley went into internment camps to get Jews out, hid them in his home, and helped them get forged passports. Or, whilst pretending to do his job stamping passports and issuing visas, he would simply bend the rules to allow Jews to escape "legally" to Britain or Palestine, which was then controlled by the British. One Jewish aid worker estimated that he saved "tens of thousands" of people from the Holocaust.

After the war Foley retired to Stourbridge, a town in the Black Country, where he died in 1958; he is buried at Stourbridge Crematorium. In October 1999 he was accorded the status of a Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Yad Vashem. In 2004 a remembrance plaque was dedicated to him at the entrance to Stourbridge's Mary Stevens Park. [2] The following year volunteers from Highbridge, Foley's birthplace, raised money to erect their own tribute. A statue was commissioned from sculptor Jonathan Sells and unveiled on the anniversary of VE Day. (Highbridge honours Frank Foley with statue, BBC, 5 May 2005)

Oskar Schindler
(From Wiki)

(April 28, 1908October 9, 1974) was an industrialist who saved his Jewish workers from the Holocaust. He saved up to 1,200 employed Jews by having them work in his enamelware and munitions factories located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic.

An opportunistic businessman, he was one of many who sought to profit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Schindler cheaply acquired a factory in Kraków, which he renamed Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik, or DEF, to manufacture enamelware. He obtained around 1,300 Jewish slave labourers to work there with the help of his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. When Stern and Schindler were first introduced to each other, Schindler held out his hand. Stern declined to take it. When Schindler asked why, he explained that he was a Jew and it was forbidden for a Jew to shake a German's hand. Schindler answered with a Teutonic (German) expletive: "Scheiße" (shit). Stern could tell from the start that this was no ordinary German. Initially he may have been motivated by money — hiding wealthy Jewish investors, for instance — but later he began shielding his workers without regard to cost. He would, for instance, claim that unskilled workers were essential to the factory. Harming his workers would result in complaints and demands for compensation from the government. Schindler was arrested three times during the war, once even for just kissing a young Jewish girl on the cheek. His second arrest was by the Gestapo for black market activities. Today it is known that Schindler was an Abwehr agent.

While witnessing a 1942 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to ship the ghetto inhabitants to the concentration camp at Plaszow, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many Jews whom he had tried to hide. He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden (Schindler's Jews). Schindler went out of his way to take good care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "Two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. 'Three hours after they walked in,' Schindler said, 'two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded'". Schindler also reportedly began to smuggle children out of the ghetto, delivering them to Polish nuns, who either hid them from the Nazis, or claimed they were Christian orphans. He arranged with Amon Göth, the commander of Plaszow, for 900 Jews to be transferred to an adjacent factory compound where they would be relatively safe from the depredations of the German guards. Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of conspiracy, but managed both times to avoid being jailed. Schindler would typically bribe government officials to avoid investigation. When the advance of the Red Army threatened to liberate the concentration camps, almost all were destroyed and a majority of the inmates murdered. Schindler, however, moved 1,200 "workers" to a factory at Brněnec-Brünnlitz in Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in October 1944. When one shipment of his workers was misrouted to Auschwitz, he managed to have them returned to him at an extremely hefty price. Brněnec was liberated in May 1945.

He died penniless in 1974, and was buried, as he'd requested, in Jerusalem.

Three very disparate men. Men who, without side or cynicism, I admire. They did what they knew to be the right thing to do. In other places or times, they may never have been anything more than husbands, fathers, industrial drones or, in Schindler's case, a confidnece trickster. In war, they found something greater. I was asked why I was interested in Rabe, but the answer extends to these men too.

"Rabe is one of the rare birds, like Foley or Schindler, who shakes my faith in the essential venality of humanity. Men, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose, doing what they knew to be right. I read Schindler's Ark (as it was called in the UK) when I was 15. I like to be reminded that nobility is possible, and folk will do what is good, rather than what is expedient. There are people who will swim against the tide for a principle, despite the risk of imprisonment, torture, or death.

Rabe was probably the best of the ones I have listed, although Foley was a man of iron will.

Rabe stuck to his principles to the end, despite threats, despite ruination. The man was a living Buddha to the victims of Nanking, an atrocity we can't discuss, unlike the final solution.

It's bad for 'business'. The Japanese refuse to acknowledge any part of it, and quietly re-write their history to white wash Nanking, The Burma Railway, the infamous Unit 731, "Comfort" Women and a thousand other half told horrors of the rise of Japan from 1933 to 1945.

There again, Lady Justice has always had an eye for a man in uniform and expensive tastes :)

Men like Rabe give me hope in a world where 'hero' means 'sponsored by Nike'"