By Abbey Mikha
Imagine a beautiful land in India and think of the following words in relation to our homeland occupied Assyria. We have water shortage in Iraq as India, for example at this moment in many of our towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains in the land between the two great rivers the people are deprived of enough water. Our Assyrian people need help as the people of India also need help. We are an ancient people just like the Indus Valley people. What is happening in India is happening all over the world. Our friendship as Assyrians with peoples of the entire earth is a testament to our humanitarian spirit as a nation. We should be standing up for those in the world that are suffering and there are many living in misery in Iraq and India. These are the Assyrian Abbey’s thoughts on blessed Maharashtra.
Changing the ideas of modernized people of the earth in relation to poor peoples of other nations has to be part of an education process for modernized people in regards to human and humanitarian issues. Abolition of rural poverty should be an extremely important concern for all persons and nations. We need to help peoples of the Third World! In our project area in the Maharashtra region in India there live a simple ancient people who have not been influenced a great deal by the progress other regions of the world have seen. Though they may be poor they certainly have people of intelligence and wisdom. Our team wants to help improve the situation of the people who are trying to survive on a seasonal basis. We have to aid in the development of farmers who can serve as future leaders in the field of agriculture. Also, we realize that water is the source of life. We want to provide help and opportunities for creative people and even inventors to influence the future of their land and villages by implementing ancient wisdom combined with modern knowledge on water harvesting techniques to cure the ecological degradation in the area.
We have researched the opinions of various individuals and experts on the three approaches to land use under consideration. In our research it was our hope to find the best solution for the peoples of the Maharashtra region of India. Although it would be amazing if we could make each person in our project area rich, a more realistic solution is to provide practical advice and support in order to influence their life, so that their living conditions can improve and they will have hope and joy not just for a moment but for a lifetime.
Structuring the Problem definition
Trying to help people of other cultures is every good human beings hope regardless of which culture they are from, but there are problems to achieving those goals and dreams, most of which are financial. In the following research project and report the opinions of various individuals and experts on the three approaches to land use under consideration will be evaluated. The opinions of individuals who are actually from India like Dr. Narayana Shenoy, Greeta Nair, K.G. Kshirsagar, and Madhav Gadgil have been considered. Additionally, the views of Kevin Conway and Thomas Rosin have been presented. We also referred to Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd report called, “Modern Irrigation and Fertigation Methodologies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane.” We are of the opinion that considering a variety of views will lead us to more accurate conclusions.
It is rather confusing to think that poor peoples of the world could not want help from those who are modernized, but the fact is that people are afraid of change. The peoples who wholeheartedly want to help are often times received in a suspicious manner by the villagers in the Maharashtra region. Accepting help from those who are strangers to the ancient land of the Indus Valley is a choice and cannot be provided by force.
The ancient water harvesting techniques that the people have used for generations must be developed and combined with modern techniques to improve the livelihood of the people. To take for granted this ancient wisdom of water harvesting would be a testament to our ignorance. Therefore, we will do our utmost to appreciate this knowledge, which springs from a distant time and even an eternal source.
In his report titled, “Conjunctive use of water resources in the Decan Trap, India” Dr. Frank Simpson gives a detailed explanation of the area of Akole Taluka which is very similar to our project area located on the eastern flanks of the Western Ghats mountain range. He says:
“Akole Taluka is located on the eastern margin of the Western Ghats mountain range in the westernmost part of Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India. This area is comprised of uplands to the west and south, which give way to rolling and relatively even topography, at lower elevations to the east. The taluka is part of the Deccan Trap plateau, where generally flat lying basalt lavas make up the bedrock beneath a variable cover of weathered basalt and soil. In these respects, it is similar to much of the Deccan region, which covers an area of 500, 000 km2 in western and central India. Superficial deposits are thin to absent at higher elevations and up to 2 m or more in thickness in the valleys. The annual rainfall, which ranges from 600 to 2,000 mm across the taluka, is largely confined to the monsoon period, from June to September. July is the wettest month. Typically, there are sporadic showers during the post-monsoon period (October–January) and little or no rain in the pre- monsoon months (February–May). Before the onset of the monsoon, temperatures in the 40–50°C range are common.”
The tribal and rural people are subsistence farmers. Their main crops are rice, groundnuts, ragi and local grass during the autumn growing season, and wheat and gram during the spring season (Simpson). The quality of the harvest depends on the amount of soil moisture and there is also fluctuating water availability that decreases gradually after the monsoon period, which affects the soil and agriculture (Simpson). Water is the source of life, and attaining it is part of the difficulty for this region.
Measures of Effectiveness
We will consider that we have succeeded in our project not necessarily when we have changed the whole region. Rather, through simple signs like when the local people trust us and have learned to more effectively subsist from their land, as a result of a combination of their ancient knowledge and our suggestions and expertise. When we have shared our information of modern strategies and combined it with the people’s ancient approaches and they start to believe that we want to help them, we will have accomplished something amazing. Our goal is to help the people of Maharashtra region and those near Akole Taluka in moving forward as a group, society, and even as individuals.
We are certain that humanitarian work will and would be embraced by many individuals of the world if the funds were available. This though should not be an excuse for non-action; we must at least attempt to help poor peoples of every nation. Nonetheless, funds are one aspect of our project that we had to keep in consideration and under control. Our team of agrologists and volunteers have decided to live amongst the people of the Maharashtra region and in this way avoid unnecessary expenses. This also will help us in understanding the daily difficulties of the people. The funds we have been granted have been expended carefully with the hope of making the best of every dollar.
Water Harvesting Solution:
Water harvesting is an ancient water collection method, which has been improved and improvised throughout the ages from the time of the earliest civilizations including that of the Indus Valley. A most pleasant verse indicating a part of the water cycle is found in the ‘Kiskindha Kanda’ of Valmiki’s Ramayana. It states: “The sun’s rays have drunk the water of the seas, and carrying it as an embryo for nine months, is giving out the elixir of life” (Shenoy). The ancient peoples of the Indus Valley realized the necessity of water and its obvious connection with all the living beings on earth.
In the article titled, “Traditional water harvesting methods of India” by Narayana Shenoy he states:
“Ancient Indian Sanskrit literature reveals the extensive knowledge our ancient predecessors possessed, of very complex and dynamic phenomena of movement of water in nature i.e. knowledge of rainfall, run-off, weather pattern, properties of water, properties of soil, etc. They designed and constructed dams, aqueducts and a variety of water harvesting structures much earlier than the commonly believed Greek, Roman or other ancient civilizations.”
This is a testament to that although the majority of the peoples of this region are poor; they are the descendants of a rich culture and civilization from a mysterious forgotten time in history. They were able to make it to this century from so many thousands of years ago! This is an achievement considering the difficult environment they live in. It is the opinion of our team that the ancient water harvesting techniques should be continued and developed and combined with modern techniques that suit the area. There are solutions, which will cause the least harm for the land and also the people. On the subject of rainwater harvesting Dr. Narayana Shenoy states:
“It can be simple to construct from inexpensive local materials, and are potentially successful in most habitable locations…Roof rainwater can’t be of good quality and may require treatment before consumption. As rainwater rushes from the roof it may carry pollutants in it such as the tiniest bit of mercury from coal burning buildings to bird feces. Although some rooftop materials may produce rainwater that is harmful to human health, it can be useful in flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering the garden… these uses alone halve the amount of water used by a typical home… Overflow from rainwater harvesting tank systems can be used to refill aquifers in a process called groundwater recharge, though this is a related process, it must not be confused with Rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvested from roofs can contain human, animal and bird feces, mosses and lichens, windblown dust, particulates from urban pollution, pesticides, and inorganic ions from the sea (Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cl, SO4), and dissolved gases (CO2, NOx, SOx)) ( Shenoy ).”
This is exactly where modern science and technology and technique can help. After collecting the water as described in the passage, it must be treated. Clean water can be made available for the population of the region. In this world of coincidence there are so many ways to lose ones life, but not having drinkable water is not an acceptable reason to die for anyone in the world, for any child of any nation. We are responsible for this as human beings and as friends to our fellow human kind.
Another opinion is that of Kevin Conway who asserts that, “Over the past 70 years, human numbers have tripled but our thirst for water has surged six-fold” (p.1). He continues:
“Supply is only one part of the growing water crisis. For an increasing number of people, water quality is every bit as threatening. Population growth, industrialization, and urbanization are not only depleting lakes, rivers, and aquifers, they are polluting them as well. Already more than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water; 3 billion lack access to basic sewerage systems. For millions, life-sustaining water is now a deadly menace. Water- and sanitation-related diseases will rob many more of their health and a productive future. The history of rain harvesting is rich in technique and innovation. The Greeks, the Mayans, and island peoples around the world all developed ways of harvesting or holding back rain as it cascaded from their roofs or flowed across their fields. IDRC-supported researchers tapped into this broad base of traditional knowledge and used the tools of modern science to improve water-harvesting techniques and safeguard water quality (Conway p.1).”
We agree with this strategy. The water harvesting solution is beneficial for the villagers near the area of Maharashtra. There are no negative consequences for the people using the various ancient techniques of water harvesting. This knowledge may come in handy at times of great need. We can help improve upon this way when combining it with some modern strategies to insure the best results.
The Sugarcane Solution:
According to the Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd report called, “Modern Irrigation and Fertigation Metholodgies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane” India is the world’s largest producer of sugar and sugarcane (p. 5). It also states that sugarcanes requirement for water and fertilizer are also equally high (p. 5). Sugarcane is grown with flood irrigation in all other states except in Maharashtra, which is the location of our project area (p. 5). According to this article the constraints for sugar cane production are:
1. Non availability of high yielding varieties 2. Dearth of good quality seed 3. Improper water management 4. Use of imbalanced fertilize doses 5. Negligence in plant protection 6. Low awareness among the farmers to use improved cultivation practices.
In this article it also states that sugarcane grows extremely well in medium to heavy, well-drained soils, and high organic matter content. Water logged soils and soils of poor drainage are not suitable. Growth of sugarcane will be poor in sandy soils (p. 6). Also, heat, humidity, and sunlight intensity play important role in sugarcane germination, tillering, vegetative growth and maturity. Sugarcane grows well in humid and hot weather (p. 6). In the JISL report it also states that the mean minimum temperature and the relative temperature disparity are comparatively lower in Maharashtra (p. 7). It seems that for all those reasons some are of the opinion that Maharashtra is a good region for growing sugar cane. This must be analyzed further with the reality and truth at heart. The motive of those trying to promote this alternative must be considered. Are these individuals trying to take what they believe to be the easy way out? This idea of making fast money while not considering the future of the land will cost the poor people in the end, not those making big money.
In an article titled, “More Maharashtra farmers shifting to sugarcane cultivation” the author Greeta Nair said the following: Favourable conditions not necessarily climatic but more political, financial and overall support, are making farmers shift. Increasingly land in Maharashtra is being diverted to sugarcane. This shift is significant in Solapur, Beed and Latur. Traditionally cane has been grown in western Maharashtra and accounts for more than 60% of the state’s contribution to the sugar bowl. But now, cane is also been grown in areas that have historically known to be chronic drought prone areas and they are contributing 25% to the sugar production (Nair p.1).
In this region of India politics hardly considers the destiny of the common folk. Politicians should not make decisions about degraded lands and best alternatives. Politicians study politics and should contribute to their field. Geologists study the earth and these scientists and engineers should be the decision makers in regards to earth issues. This would positively influence our destiny as a human race upon this planet we call home.
All things considered, the district of Maharashtra is actually facing the problems of water scarcity and sustainability due to sugarcane cultivation. Therefore sugar cane cultivation is not the solution. A society cannot make all of its decisions based on a one-year economic plan. The income made within one year of sugar cane production will only be beneficial for those with the money in their pocket.
In the Agricultural Economics Research Review of 2006 called the, “Organic Sugarcane Farming for Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Maharashtra” by K.G. Kshirsagar the issue of how much sugar cane costs to grow is discussed. Also, how much fertilizers cost chemical and non-chemical, costs of irrigation, and plant protection chemicals. In this article he states:
In Maharashtra, about 80 per cent of water is utilized for agriculture (World Bank, 2003), and more than 60 percent of it is utilized for the sugarcane crop alone. Moreover, farmers mine water from deeper aquifers for the sugarcane crop, especially in the study district. This is a cause of great concern and demands conservation and judicious use of water, as it has endangered the stability and sustainability of agriculture. The organic sugarcane farming (OSF) has been found quite successful in the study area and has offered several benefits as compared to those by inorganic sugarcane farming (ISF). Although OSF requires more human labor, cost of cultivation has been found lower due to savings on chemical fertilizers, irrigation, seeds and agrochemicals. The yields have been observed to be relatively lower on OSF but are more than compensated by the price premium fetched by the organic sugarcane and the yield and profit stability observed on OSF. The OSF has been found to conserve the soil and water resources, increases farmers’ income, thereby enhancing their economic well-being and livelihood security. Thus, OSF is important in achieving the goal of sustainable agriculture. It has been suggested that organic farming should receive prime attention from all the stakeholders to realize its full potential in increasing profitability and providing the much sought after sustainability of agriculture.
This is an exaggeration of the reality of sugar cane production in Maharashtra and the future of its lands, soils, and economy. Although it is always good to consider various opinions in the end the truth must be the guide, for the harnessing of truth of those of the poor of Maharashtra region will be a beacon of light that will enable them to subsist well into the future. Their truth may need to be considered on a global level. It may well be a simple truth, that they need honest advice and help. The future of the lands in the region must be well thought out and although the people are being pressured to grow sugar cane by the government this solution is not the best alternative.
Do Nothing Approach
In his article called, “Conjunctive use of water resources in Deccan Trap” Dr. Frank Simpson stated, “Indigenous knowledge, attention to local religious practices, and respect for traditional and folk approaches to communication were indispensable to the success of the project.” This is a very important factor of our project also. Allowing the people of the Maharashtra region to continue on with their traditions and the way they have subsisted since ancient times without any help may be a choice, albeit an unfair one. It allows them to live life as their ancestors have done. So many times throughout history modern peoples have intruded on the lives of ancient peoples and have caused a lot of unpleasantness in the life of the people as a community. Although our project is an honourable one and we want to help the people of Maharashtra, they may not want the help we so want to give. Though they live in poverty they may have found some greater meaning to life.
A simple question may be, “Does what we want to provide for the people of this region fit with their life style as physical and spiritual beings?” The answer to this question may be contradictory depending on whom we ask. Some of the people might be very attached to their practices and consider them holy. Nonetheless, our goal is to try to increase their self-esteem so that they can change their future, but we must remember that this may not be ours to control. The natural way of living may be satisfactory and the most environmental friendly system for human beings to subsist at peace with the earth. Perhaps someday there may not be any better permanent solution and therefore we must think about the meaning behind this approach.
It is true that we should try to influence other cultures in order to help them move forward. Aiding people of the area in the Maharashtra region will benefit them physically, propel them forward as a community, and give them a better life. Nothing is certain in this world but the philosophy of brotherhood and sisterhood is everlasting.
In Madhav Gadgil’s article titled, “Biodiversity and India’s Degraded Lands” she discusses a very interesting topic. She says that, “ecosystem people” subsist by producing or gathering a diversity of biological resources from their immediate vicinity. The people of the Maharashtra region are such “ecosystem people”. She says:
“Their quality of life is intimately lined to the maintenance of modest levels of biodiversity in their own circumscribed resource catchments. Their resources base has been extensively degraded by pressures created by “biosphere people”…the Third World elite and citizens of industrial countries, who can draw resources from all over the world and are thus, indifferent to environmental degradation in the Third World. “Ecosystem people” have a genuine stake in biodiversity maintenance in their immediate surrounding, it is important that conservation efforts include maintenance and restoration of at least modest levels of biodiversity throughout the Third World (p. 167).”
So the question must be considered, “Do we want to help the poor of the region in order to give them bits of our life style, or rather so that we can continue our own life style in the future?”
Our projects incentive is moral so we can help poor farmers and villagers and give them our knowledge. After we do so though we must be careful not to consider ourselves their managers. We must not allow ourselves to believe that after we have given the people in Maharashtra newfound information that we must now stay in the country and become the overseers of events. It has been said many times that the world has become a global village and this is true, but we have overstepped many boundaries as a western civilization. We must deal with the people in a very considerate and sensitive manner. Their culture is fragile. We should help them and protect them but we should not govern them. We should never destroy that which makes them unique. Above all we should ask what they want.
Analysis of Alternative Solutions
The positive and negative consequences of each possible solution to the alternative solutions will now be considered. In Mintesinot Behailu and Mitiku Haile’s report about water harvesting they state:
“The aim of water harvesting is to mitigate the effects of temporal shortages of rain, so-called dry spells, to cover both household needs and productive use. This involves storage component and various forms of storage exist such as: micro-dams, farm ponds, subsurface dams, tanks… Water scarcity is a critical issue for many developing countries in general and for those in the arid to semi-arid areas of the world in particular. It has long been understood that intensive water resource development can have a decisive role in the economic and social development of a country and in alleviating drought. Alleviating food security related to drought and famine through sustainable agriculture and environmental rehabilitation…attempts are being made to harvest runoff water in micro-dams for use both in households and small-scale irrigation schemes. It is recognized that the construction of micro-dams with proper irrigation and agronomic services will result in micro-climatic and environmental changes with positive impact on sustained productivity. Notwithstanding the positive impacts on increased agricultural productivity and improved community welfare, the negative impacts of water resource development require constant assessment and monitoring on environmental changes (Behailu and Haile).”
Therefore, there are innumerable positive aspects to water harvesting. There are no negative consequences for the people relying on their ancient techniques and further developing them through our modern knowledge of water retrieval. This solution can only bring constructive results for the land and the people. Although the water collected may not be directly drinkable instantly, it is usable in many other ways, and there are many procedures to clean the water so that every person in Maharashtra will have enough to survive and hopefully prosper.
The positive aspects of sugar cane productions are that it provides a multitude of jobs and thus influences the economy positively. Negative aspect of sugar cane production other than the negative influence on soils, is that sugar cane is a water intensive crop, and enormous amount of water is required for its cultivation. This water is lacking in the area. The water to cultivate the sugar cane will be taken from the mouths of the people.
Although local politicians, representing both the State and Federal Governments, have proposed that there is money to be made from growing sugar cane on a large scale in our project area, we must consider the needs and the thoughts of the villagers. We are of the same opinion as the villagers. We believe that the proponents of the widespread production of sugar cane and scarce soil nutrients would be depleted on a large scale, with every harvest. Therefore, although the politicians think this strategy would be a big money maker it is not the best long-term solution for the land or the people.
The do nothing approach which would allow the villagers to live their life as they have done in the years before, since many thousand years ago in ancient times, also has positive and negative impacts. The positive aspect of this strategy is that the people would live as their ancestors have lived without disruption of their life style. The negative aspect is that the people may not be able to survive as they have because of changes upon the earth. Also, it must be said that our future as a human race is co-dependent. Yes, we may also need to learn from the people of the Maharashtra region, perhaps to balance our own life style of greed, waste, and excess. Therefore, we must lift the people of Maharashtra unto a higher standard of living and perhaps in the future lower our standard of living, in order to meet somewhere in the middle in a forthcoming time where we all must coexist together. Balance and equality of living standards will be essential so that we all survive into the next thousand years upon the earth.
Although it might be difficult to explain to all the people of Maharashtra what the solutions are for the project area, our team of volunteers and experts are eager and ready to meet with all the various village councils who oppose the growing of sugar cane as a major crop, and anyone else who may wish to attend our meeting. We believe that the village council is correct in that they believe that the problem of land degradation would get much worse in the longer term as a result of the mass production of sugar cane for profits. We also agree with the village council that the only way to reverse the processes of desertification, which are well under way in the region, is to prevent the monsoon rains from flowing out of the area as surface runoff. This is best done through the widespread introduction of the technologies for water harvesting and water spreading. These involve very simple modifications of the hill slopes, which are cheap, small-scale and easily replicated. The new technologies would raise the amount of soil moisture and permit the production of a higher-yield second crop. When this knowledge is combined with that of ancient harvesting methods the people will feel comfortable because they will sense a familiarity with the practices.
In Thomas Rosin’s article, “The Tradition of Groundwater Irrigation in Northwestern India” he expresses that research indicates that there existed a different groundwater irrigation system of dams and perennial canals redesigned for India by the British during the early nineteenth century and have been continued by modern Indian government. There were though also indigenous principles and practices that the people in the region followed before. He writes about a folk system of hydrologic practices in India and gives importance to the surface impoundments of rain (p. 51). He further expresses that there is a interlinking among surface water facilities and their significance to the all over hydrology. This article argues that the opinion has been voiced that the indigenous system is actually superior to that of the British (Rosin p. 51).
It is very true that some modern civilizations have lost admiration for the ancient world and the knowledge that its peoples hold within their memory. Ancient knowledge is precious and we were all once connected to peoples who were originally ancient. One day we will know perhaps how those ancient people built the great civilizations of the world including that of the mesmerizing Indus Valley, and how they survived for so many thousands of years. Until we better understand these civilizations we should never undermine the knowledge of its people.
In conclusion we cannot accept the sugar cane solution, which would cause further problems down the road for the land and the people. Therefore, we must work with the locals of the Maharashtra region to bring about changes in the area through the ancient water harvesting techniques combined with our modern knowledge. The do nothing approach in our opinion is also not acceptable. We must do something! We must be able to earn the trust of fellow human beings in that we will help them and contribute our knowledge in order to make their lives better. The Indus Valley people are a link to the past and our sincere friendship with them and all peoples of the world is our link to the future.
We should respect all the farmers of the world and not just in Maharashtra. We must always also remember just like human beings need rest the earth also needs its rest and can only produce so much. Do not abuse the earth that freely gives of herself and be true to our planet. God only knows how much time there is left on earth.
This was Assyrian Abbey's point of view in regards to geology and what is going on in India and the world. The Assyrians are also civilizations first farmers. I have great respect for the farmer and I believe that their occupation is one of the most honourable and sacred. I have much compassion for the farmers in India as I do for those all over the world including in my home of occupied Assyria. The farmers of the world deserve to be respected. If people who have compassion from India read this report I ask you to look in the situation of the farmers in occupied Assyria or what is called today modern North of Iraq. We have to help each other as ancient people of the world. So many times while doing reports about ancient people I have felt that the ancient world is being exterminated by the modern world. The people of the ancient world should rise up and unite and hold each other’s hand in a chain of unity regardless of what their skin color, religion, or language is. We were once all one and we are still one.
Brooks David, Shames Tilly, Wolfe Sarah (2001). Local Water Supply and Management: A Compendium of 30 Years of IDRC-Funded Research International Development Research Centre. Retrieved from: http://web.idrc.ca/uploads/user- S/111711308618Brooks.pdf
Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. Irrigation & Fertigation Methologies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane. Retrieved from: http://www.jains.com/PDF/crop/sugarcane%20cultivation.pdf
K.G. Kshirsagar, Agricultural, (2006). Organic Sugarcane Farming for Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Maharashtra. Economics Research Review Vol. 19 pp 145-153. Retrieved from: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/57785/2/DrKG-Kshirsagar.pdf
Madhav Gadgil, Biodiversity and India’s Degraded Lands. Published by: Springer on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Page 167 of 167-172. Obtained from Jstor: Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4314063.
Mintesinot Behailu and Mitiku Haile, (2006 June). Highlighting the impacts of North– South research collaboration among Canadian and southern higher education partners. Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada. http://www.aucc.ca/_pdf/english/publications/colloquium_proceedings_e.pdf
Nair Geeta, (2011 Jan 14). More Maharashtra Farmers Shifting to Sugarcane Cultivation. Financial Express. Retrieved from: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/more-maharashtra-farmers-shifting-to- sugarcane-cultivation/737292/1
Rosin Thomas (1993). Human Ecology: The Tradition of Groundwater Irrigation in Northwestern India. Obtained from Jstor. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4603074
Shenoy Narayana, (2009 August 16). Traditional Water Harvesting Methods of India. Retrieved from: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage& pid=304&page=22
Simpson Frank, and Sohani Girish, (2003). India BP-II.13: Conjunctive Use of Water Resources in Deccan Trap. In: MOST/Nuffic (IK-Unit) Database, Register of Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge, Chapter 4 of Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge, Joint Publication of the Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST) and the Centre for International Research and Advisory Networks (CIRAN), MOST Database of Best Practices. Web-link Reference: http://www.unesco.org/most/bpik13-2.htm
By Abbey Mikha
Everyone knows that helping those who are less fortunate is the foundation of Jesus’s teachings. In Hebrews 13:16 it says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” If nations of the world truly have faith they would help the Assyrians who are among those suffering the most in the world right now, and they would say yes to the Assyrians.
The Assyrians are dying a terrible death in their homeland though they are trying their best to defend themselves. They are losing their mother land and the world is silent. The Assyrians are an ancient and modern nation. We have survived upon the earth since the beginning of documented recorded history.
Some scholars say that the royal blood line of the Assyrians died out, and that the people who were left were farmers and rustics. Since when though can’t a king, priest, or shepherd be a farmer, with all my respects to the farmer? Or, a farmer or rustic be or become a sovereign because of the person and individual that he or she is in spirit? Regardless of whether the royal line of the Assyrians has been continued the Assyrians are still worthy! The entire world, but especially the western Christian world must pay attention to the Assyrians and their plight. Without the Assyrians in the Middle East there will be extreme disorder which has already begun in the past years and in a few more years’ horror and terror could continue to take over the region and then the entire world.
In Philippians 2:4 it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Modern people of the world have been known to be very analytical and only care about the interests of the elites of their countries and their agenda. We must change this and help others because if we only serve ourselves what good have we done? People of the world and especially Canada, USA, Australia, and Europe you should help the helpless Assyrians. You are powerful nations with authority, influence, security, wealth, and societies which hopefully believe in justice. We need to realize as a human race that the interests of other good peoples around the world are also our interests because we are united in being well-intentioned and noble nations.
John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” Isn’t that what is happening to the Assyrians right now? Since the Assyrians were thrown out what is called Mosul, which is Nineveh province the famous capital of the Assyrians in Northern Iraq, and ISIS took over the region who has given a helping hand to the Assyrians? Has the world community helped the Assyrians with weapons to defend themselves? Has the world community helped with the daily food rations as the Assyrians live in refugee camps in the North of Iraq? What has the world community or the western community done to elevate the suffering of the Assyrian men, women, and children who have lost everything? Jesus’s love does not abide in those who close their heart to the suffering of others. If you love Jesus you must say yes to the Assyrians.
Matthew 25:35 says, “For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren; ye have done it unto me.”
Yes, “the least of these” isn’t that what the world thinks of the poor and underprivileged Assyrians? Isn’t that what the people in Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem and many places Jesus preached thought of Him? Yet he became the King of Kings! Could not the Assyrians who believe in Jesus though their ancestors were considered gentiles, yet they were among the first to believe in Him, still have special and sacred people in their nation? In their human simplicity and through their spirituality could not others rise up with the help of good nations to preach beliefs of the ancient world and Christianity which is in their genes? These are the people and children of Assyria and these are the people who are being intimidated, murdered, raped, and starved. The roofs above their heads are being stolen and their identity is being camouflaged and devastated. If they declare themselves as Assyrians in the homeland they are terrorized and bullied. Do you really believe that we are the least of nations and this is the reason you ignore us? I’m sure not because I believe still in the goodness of the people of nations and that is the reason you must say yes to the Assyrians.
James 2:14-17 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Indeed where are the deeds of the Christians of the world in relation to the Assyrians? They profess to believe in Jesus Christ but what about their actions? We are all as nations interconnected. Even our destinies are intertwined! We need to support each other. I believe that many Christian nations profess their faith but when it comes to actions they don’t do much. Do they truly believe in Jesus? If we believe in Him we must become like Him. It is easy to say we are Christians but to live our life as Christians in word and deed is always more difficult.
John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” I wish the Assyrians will be a beloved nation by other Christians and all peoples of the world. It is not right to hate the Assyrians because what it says in the Old Testament. This scheme of the Old Testament is not fair and the ancient hatred for the Assyrians needs to be analyzed and understood. These aren’t the words that were written about the Assyrians by God. They are the words of a vengeful people who wrote the bible under their agenda of hate and jealousy because the Assyrians had the power of civilization, and there is immense scholarly proof for these facts which you may seek. As Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”
There are four million Assyrians in the world if all the churches are included. Could not the world and especially the western world help the Assyrians to establish themselves in their homeland? Say yes to the Assyrians because they are a moral nation that deserves to live. We will help the world when we are established in the North of Iraq which is occupied Assyria. Our culture is beautiful. Our music, poetry, books, ideology as a nation, and our faith in Jesus exemplifies devoutness and love.
Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” There are rich people who are part of the Assyrian nation and many of them donate to the nation suffering in the homeland, but most Assyrians outside of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey are middle class. Many of the Assyrians in the homeland are educated but humble and living a simple life. As a nation of original farmers they are used to living off the land just like people did in the time of Jesus. Even the foods they eat such as olives, grapes, lentils, dates, nuts, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, lamb, bread, corn, wheat, and wine are foods that were eaten by Jesus in the days of the Lord. You could say that they are still living an ancient natural biblical life style in the homeland in modern days when they are allowed to express their identity and when they are allowed to live.
Hopefully in the upcoming days, months, and years peoples of the world and especially western people will say yes to the Assyrians and will help those left in the North of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey in order to improve their dire situation. Of course I must say to the Assyrians all over the world especially in diaspora, we are responsible for strengthening our house and home as well. We must work for our goals to free our homeland occupied Assyria especially in the North of Iraq.
Acts 20:35 says, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I have a friend who always helps me out when I’m not feeling well. She takes the time to have conversations with me just to give me another point of view. She also randomly gets me books that she thinks are beneficial and interesting. She is a great friend. These are just simple examples of friendship, but when I was able to do things for her how good did that feel?! All people must do this. Befriend the Assyrians. It feels so good to help a deserving person or nation. When I do things for anyone I never ask anything in return. I just say pay it forward. Continue this diffusion of good deeds and let it reach all around the world. Find it in your heart to say yes to the Assyrians.
Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” From the beginning of history the Assyrian spiritual life has been rich and it continues from ancient times to modern times through their true Christian beliefs. The Assyrians pray to the saints whether Mar Zaia, or saint Rebka, or Mar Charbel, and many others. They bless our lives and keep us sane in a foolish and crazy world. There have been many miracles by Assyrian saints.
It is also said in the bible that you may be entertaining angels unaware. I’m not saying that Assyrians are perfect, but when I look into the eyes of those old Assyrian men and women from the homeland and the way they sparkle with deep meaning and the sacrifice they have made throughout their lives, I cannot but think of them as saints and angels. Perhaps other than children this group of people have suffered the most in the North of Iraq and Syria. Many of them want to fight back to regain the land that was in their memory before, their towns and villages. Some of the women cook for the young Assyrian men who are battling ISIS and also for the people in refugee camps. There are numerous pictures with older Assyrian women holding the Assyrian flag with humbleness, saintliness, and love.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Do not put anyone down who is trying to progress in their life in the world as person or as a nation including the Assyrians. Let your dialogue be positive about the Assyrians. Do not judge the Assyrians without getting to know them. Other than in the homeland there are Assyrians all over the world especially in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Assyrians have conventions and festivals. They do fundraisers for their people in the homeland. There is also a real nationalistic Assyrian movement network which is growing day by day and this shows that the Assyrians will never give up. They are trying their best to make something from what little they have. Each person contributes according to their skills, ability, and love for their nation. I hope in the not so distant future there will be established a real nationalistic Assyrian leadership with positive goals, leaders who work with integrity for our Assyrian people and homeland.
Read about the Assyrians. This is the moment in time to deeply learn about the Assyrians and know the real facts. We are the last of our kind. Say yes to the Assyrians. The Assyrians deserve to thrive and live and be a nation not only in their own eyes and those of their children and people, but also in the eyes of the world.
Picture above is of my mom Yola and I
By Abbey Mikha
Shlama Qa Qol Ashouraye!
I hope you are all having a great summer, enjoying the nice weather, and doing things you love! Yesterday I was just sitting there alone at home and I remembered my mom’s town in Jilu Hakkari called Zerineh. I had some time and made a YouTube video with the song Zerineh by Janan Sawa and included some of my pictures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Rufq4zmmAE
I always loved Janan’s songs and especially his songs to do with Atra, Kha’b Nissan, and Zerineh. I remember being at a Assyrian convention in Detroit in 2002 and dancing to his many beautiful songs at the picnic.
I’m not sure when the song Zerineh was written, but I can remember it since I was very young. It is a beautiful song with a sad tune, a tune that resembles the sadness that our ancestors felt when they had to flee Zerineh during the Seypa Genocide that devastated our nation.
This Genocide was perpetuated by Islamic Kurds and Ottoman Islamic Turks. They openly did then what they are covertly trying to do now! This Genocide is the first of the century and it is many times falsely called the Armenian Genocide. I say falsely because there were also Pontic Greeks and Assyrians who suffered and were killed and annihilated.
A lot of historians say that had this first Genocide in World War I been prevented, the other Genocide in World War II would not have taken place. This is something very significant that the people of the world must realize and give consideration to. We should never condone genocide! It is wrong on all levels. All good peoples deserve to live and the Assyrians definitely deserved and deserve to live.
One day I will see the ground where you stood Zerineh and one day I’ll go back to my homeland to sit in your fields, to see your mountains, and to wonder why time has created this distance between us. Even though I am far from the lands of my ancestors I’ll always be a flower from the fields of Zerineh.
I have never been to Turkey but I always think about Zerineh. I imagine it as a very lovely place. I wonder who lives there now and do they remember it as my beautiful Zerineh ?
I am an Assyrian born in Lebanon. My mother’s family be Yousip left their homeland in Zerineh Hakkari and escaped to Kiev during the Seypa Genocide. There is a story passed down in my family that my great grandfather Adam Yousip from Zerineh walked from the Hakkari region with his family to Kiev. My grandfather Kostan was born in Kiev. His mother was an Assyrian originally born in Russia. They must have been strong people!
My grandfather moved to Lebanon with his family when he was very young.
I grew up listening to Assyrian music in the town of Ksara in Lebanon at the yearly Sherat Mar Zaia celebration and I have always loved Assyrian music even though my family left Lebanon to Germany and then to Canada at a very young age. I love the country of my birth Lebanon, but my heart pulses the song of Assyria and the song of Zerineh.. I wonder and have an inquiry if there will be future songs about Zerineh with a happy tune?
The Assyrians in Ksara call the town in Lebanon Zerineh because so many people in town come from Zerineh Jilu Hakkari originally. They are survivors of the Seypa Genocide. The houses in the town of Ksara were given to these Assyrians who still live there amongst each other. There is a beautiful church in the town called Mar Zaia to remind us of our beautiful church in Hakkari. Lebanon has many beautiful churches and monasteries and so does Hakkari! Although they are simplistic in their style they still are dripping with Christian Assyrian devotion, spirit, and love.
I hope to visit Hakkari one day and see what is left of the towns and villages of the Assyrians in Turkey. This land belongs to us but who will listen? This land was stolen from us! I hope that life will give you an opportunity to go back and visit our homeland as well. If one day you visit Zerineh think of me and I am with you there in spirit.
I have written an article about the Hakkari Assyrians called, “The Metis of Red River and the Assyrians of Assyria.” It is from some years back. Many people disagreed with my opinions in this article. I used to believe that multiculturalism should spread and the whole world should become one. Witnessing what is happening in the Middle East now to the Assyrians and other minorities, and the way people in the world are turning a blind eye to so much suffering and murdering, makes me question my old opinions. Nonetheless, here is the link for the article:
The Song “Zerineh” is one of my favourites ever since I was a child because I always knew that my mom’s ancestors were from Zerineh and because I myself like the lady in the song have green eyes. I wonder if many women from Zerineh have green eyes!? It is said that only 1-2 % of people in the world have green eyes. It could be typical of the Assyrian people of the region as I have many relatives with green and blue eyes.
I also have heritage from Alqosh and Mardin in Tur Abdin, but I always felt close to the town of Zerineh because I grew up with the kids of the town in Ksara until I was five years old many of which were Zerne. I am proud of my entire heritage. It is my honour to be from Zerineh, Alqosh, and Mardin! I never forgot the people in the town of Ksara no matter which countries I traveled to just like I never forget the people of Zerineh, Alqosh, and Mardin and all Assyrian towns and villages. They all always stayed in my heart. I think of them every day and even in dreams.
I hope to visit my relatives in Ksara Lebanon one day again and one day I hope and wish to see you Zerineh.
My friend Ashour and I were discussing this issue of returning to the homeland and he said, “We should ALWAYS think of our beautiful homeland and the glorious day that we return, like a lost child returning to his mother.” I responded to him: “Children sometimes grow up and search a lifetime for their mother even if she gave them up at birth or at a young age! Many of them forgive their mothers for letting them go because they realize that her situation was very difficult at that time. In a way our homeland gave us up since 1915, but this does not have to be forever. Those of us who are attached to the beat of our land and ancestry are connected to an invisible umbilical cord. It is like something that pulls us to the direction of the East. Like an image of beautiful goddesses of our homeland calling our names to return and signalling with their hands and telling us that we are all flowers who are supposed to be blooming there in those fields by those mountains.
Zerineh, you feel far away but close to my heart. If one day there will be justice in the world then houses for Assyrians will be built again in Zerineh.. One day the Assyrians may be allowed to go back to build their homeland, and all Assyrians shall realize that they were born Assyrian in this life because their soul was attached to and remembered the atrocities which took place in Assyria at the hands of the foe. Every Assyrian is here on earth to defend the memory of our martyrs, our great grandfathers who fought, and the future of our nation. There is one thing I’m certain of and that is that I will always love and think of you Zerineh!
The Berkley Argument on God: ‘To Be is to Be Perceived’ so Shouldn't God Save Abused Children and the Assyrians?
By Abbey Mikha
‘To be is to be perceived’ is what George Berkley proposed in his famous yet uncertain argument. Bishop Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose main accomplishment was the development of a theory he called "immaterialism." This theory denies the existence of material substance and instead believes that these things that are familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived. This may have been a truth in Berkley’s mind but my argument is that if it were true that ‘to be is to be perceived’ and that we exist because God perceives us as an idea in his super mind, then it would also be true that God is passive and does not perceive ideas which could save abused children from criminals. God is also responsible for those ideas which create the rise and fall of nations, even those early Christian nations such as the Assyrians who have worshipped him since the advent of Christianity, who are on the verge of extinction and are experiencing Genocide today.
George Berkeley tried to make sense of the Christian God of the Bible and he searched his own mind to be able to attribute the features of who he perceived to be his Creator. One of the main points in Berkleys argument on perception is that even for something to exist, that can be as simple and as complicated as an idea it must be perceived (Ariew and Watkins 139). Berkeley imagined a divine dialectic of ideas; Gods thoughts which are implanted into our psyches yet spontaneously pop up in our mind at his will. God is the writer and editor of the thoughts of human kind and all things which perceive. Berkley believed that things do not exist without some mind perceiving them; the mind which perceives humans is this super intelligence of the creator of the universe, the heavens and the earth; the one who also fashioned humans in the beginning long ago.
Ideas are manifested in our mind by this will of God. Berkeley compared God to a musician playing harmonious notes that human kind may not be able to understand (Ariew and Watkins 154). It is amazing how optimistic Berkeley is in regards to the tune God is playing. It makes one wonder if he doesn’t realize how much suffering there is in the world, and how much an Omnipotent God could do to change this. He calls the psyche of the creator the “eternal mind” (Ariew and Watkins 159) which never pauses and in which there is no questioning his everlasting continuousness.
Edward Sillem on Perception
The first main point in Edward Sillem`s argument is that Berkeley never meant for his theory on perception to be an abstract metaphysical principle (114). Berkeley, Sillem stated discovered the facts through experience (115). “The beginning of wisdom is to be found in a relish for the things which are known from actual perception and from the conscious experience of perceiving them” (Sillem 115). So, to understand perception is to seek to discover the mechanism of how we as humans perceive; one does not have to be highly educated to use this means of discovering the truth. Sillem reasoned that looking at the facts means analyzing perceived facts, and therefore also influencing our view of those facts (115). Sillem stated that the way in which we perceive things is our reality of them (116). Reality may be totally different then what we actually perceive, but what we perceive is the way we see the world, the things and the people around us.
Sillem also stated that “ideas are things which are perceived, and spiritual things are beings which perceive; it is impossible to find a material thing which perceives or a spiritual being which is perceived” (116). Here it can be argued that Berkeley himself states that we are perceived by God, so we are spiritual beings which are perceived by the Biblical God who may or may not exist. Sillem believed that Berkeleys metaphysical principle ‘to be is to be perceived’ is a statement about the ultimate actuality of things, and whether true or untrue should be decided by attention to the use of the word ‘existence’ when referring to particular things (116). The truth of Berkeleys principle Sillem believes is “incarnate within each and every concrete particular being” (119). Berkeley argues “what is perceivable but an idea? And can an idea exist without being actually perceived? (127). Berkeley believed that humans are an idea in God’s mind, and he tried to conjure the image of the unseen Biblical God who is distant from his creation.
Sillem explained that the actuality of sensible things consists in their being perceived right now by me, not by someone else (132). He continues about tables and chairs which are real for a person because he or she perceives them. However “he thought... that because things continue to exist when I am not perceiving them, and when no other human mind is perceiving them, they must be continuously perceived by some mind” (Sillem 132). That super mind is God.
Then Sillem brings up the issue of the motion of the earth which he says is “an idea of sense which exists really and independently of all human minds (133). So some other divine non-human mind is responsible for our place in the universe. No material things can exist without being perceived by an infinite spirit. “But so far as God is concerned material things exist because they are not only known by Him, but also willed by Him” (Sillem 134). Gods will is the immediate cause of all things, and because His will is omnipotent God has no need to use instrumental causes to produce any created effect“(Sillem 134). It is very evident that Berkeley was a highly idealistic person; although he admits the former about how little effort it takes for God to create an effect, he does not hold him accountable for this. In regards to the soul, Sillem stated that Berkeley believed that “the duration or continued existence of a spirit is due to the number of ideas or actions which succeed each other in that spirit’s mind” (141). It makes one wonder why then human existence is so fragile and at times can suddenly come to an end; why do bad things happen to good people?
Edward Sillems Discussion of Berkeleys Proofs for the Existence of God
Sillem goes on to discuss the proof for the existence of the Biblical God. These are important for this argument because if we are truly perceived by God then proof for his existence would be of paramount importance. One proof which we are interested in is the one where he uses the principle of immaterialism and perception.
Sillem believed that: In Berkeley`s view, it is necessary to establish the existence of God by arguing from effect to cause, showing, by an immediate inference from the beings of this world which we know from experience, that God must exist, and this in a way which is so cogent and easy for ordinary thinking people to follow that it admits of no escape or even questioning. Berkeley held that, if we know what the different beings familiar to us from experience are, we ought to be able to perceive at once and almost intuitively the absolute necessity of the divine existence. Such an ideal and convincing proof he professed to be able to provide from his forthright metaphysics of Immaterialism (144)
Berkeley said that men usually consider that all things are known by God, whereas he on the other hand instantly and unavoidably conclude the being of a God, because all reasonable things must be perceived by him (Sillem 145). A mind communicates itself to us in view of the rational universe, and Berkeley would like to conclude that this mind is God. Berkeley thought that those people who deny the existence of God should also deny the existence of other human beings and those who believe in the existence of other human beings should also believe in the existence of God (Sillem 150). The world does not owe itself to human perception; rather its existence is due to the perception of something much greater than us. Berkeley wants us to think of the universe as one galaxy ruled by the mind of one magnificent creator of things, beings, and ideas. The analysis of sensible things perceived by us, are administrated by laws so Berkeley concluded that God exists (Sillem 150). The existence of natural laws and a design shows that the whole universe is dependent on that one mind which was created by a will. One could argue that it is true that the universe is harmonious, although it may have been chaotic in the beginning of time, but there are many ways in which life could be better, especially where it concerns the relation of humans with other humans who are of different religions, cultures, and gods.
Berkeley claimed to have proven the existence of God as “a being whose spirituality, omnipresence, providence, omniscience, infinite power and goodness, are as conspicuous as the existence of sensible things, of which...there is no more reason to doubt, than of our own being” (167). This is an explanation of the unseen God whom the Bible speaks of.
“The order prevailing within the universe is proof of God’s wisdom and goodness; since those attributes of His are the sole cause of the order of the universe and of the laws of nature, and again since God wills this order for the good of mankind, He will conserve it in the future as long as He wills man to live in his present condition” (Sillem 160).
These sentiments are exactly the reason I question God; since God is so powerful he should be doing more for the meek who according to Christian tradition are supposed to inherit the earth.
A.C Grayling on Percevability
Gods mind is the Universal Library of everlasting ideas and God holds the power and the ability to produce ideas in us. This is a very significant control that God has over humanity and it can be used to manifest a lot of good on earth. “Berkeley concludes that God, the ‘Author of Nature’, is the ultimate source both of ideas and their connections” (Grayling 52). Some individuals want to explain the causes of our experiences since God has so much influence on them according to Berkeley. In the ontological argument for God’s existence Grayling considers thoughts on the non existence of God as a contradiction because “existence is a perfection and God is perfect” (87). God may be perfect but life for humans is not perfect. “However, God’s having qualitatively the same ideas I have, in fuller form perhaps, is logically independent of his causing them in me, since he could cause those ideas in me without himself having them in just that form...” (Grayling 99). God therefore has the power to stop negative things from occurring in human life without even thinking about it just by sensing what needs to be thought.
“God is affected by nothing whatever, perceives nothing by sense, and is ‘absolute and independent’...hence is not subject to the imperfections in which ‘to endure, or suffer, or feel anything by sense’ consist” (Grayling 100).” Therefore it is questionable why God would create us in a form where we cannot live his type of existence. To say that S perceives x is in part to say that there is x; if there were no x to be perceived then S cannot perceive it (Grayling 105). That would mean that when we perceive James Camerons hit movie Avatar, the characters exist on some other distant planet because we can perceive them. Of course prescribers of such a theory would hold that the former is false because there are always exceptions to the rule.
To say that there are potential ideas is “to say that God stands ready to cause those ideas of sense-to make them actual-in case any finite mind should be in a position to perceive them” (Grayling 109). Both authors Grayling and Sillem insist on this issue and I fear that they are not attempting to reflect how possibly dangerous this could be especially if the God we perceive to be good has hidden motives and intentions. Grayling states that “Pitcher... suggests that if God causes ideas in his own mind then he must be partially passive” (111). I agree with this point immensely because I see the passivity in Gods character which is evident in everyday life and it makes me wonder about his reasoning.
Gods Passiveness in Perception
Berkeley addresses the issue of existence and being perceived by explaining how we are perceived by God, so it is not wrong of me to elaborate on what I perceive of God because he is not afraid of the truth; according to Berkeley he is producing these ideas in me right now.
My argument is that if it were true that ‘to be is to be perceived’ and that we exist because God perceives us as an idea in Gods super mind, then it would also be true that God is passive and at times does not perceive ideas which could save abused children from criminals; God is also responsible for those ideas which create the rise and fall of nations, even those early Christian nations who have worshipped him since the advent of Christianity; such as the Assyrians, who are on the verge of extinction today. So it would be true that the omnipotent Christian God which Berkeley has reasoned exists, who is the ultimate perceiver and creator of ideas, has the power to help the helpless, yet sometimes does not; this is evident in life and unlike Berkeley who is highly idealistic and sees the world for its beauty, I see it for what it is. Therefore, if God is Omnipotent as Berkeley perceives, and he perceives us, it does not equal to that God is all loving since he a being of Superpower is not always there for the powerless.
An example of God’s passiveness in perception is evident from all the suffering in the world. Does an omnipotent God exist? This is a legitimate question that should be explored because if he does exist he should always be there for his creation because he can be. I may be expecting of God to keep a full time job since he has the power to do so; although the universe is ordered, we must expect more of the One who holds the keys to everything. Just because one can perceive that God is orderly, as evidenced by the universe and nature, does not naturally follow that he is also completely good. Sensitive questions such as why God allows young children to be abused should be explored. Grayling and Edwards both mentioned that God has the power to create ideas in any human mind without even thinking about it. How about transporting and insisting on the idea of that a criminal should stop their bad actions? Should not the most powerful God who is good help abused children who have been left in the hands of criminals? Since God can bring about ideas in human beings, should he not bring about the idea to the criminal that a child is an innocent being and should not be abused by anyone? It is not uncommon for children under the age of one to be abused in this world and we hear of these atrocities in the news all the time. Where is God at the time when such things are occurring?
Another example of the passive perception of God is evident among the first ancient nation to convert to Christianity, the Assyrians who today are on the verge of extinction and are experiencing Genocide. Why has God turned his back on this nation which has been so loyal to him throughout the years and has suffered so much persecution because of their faith in this God? Berkeley believed this God to be the ultimate perceiver so why are the first of his followers, who for centuries have worshipped him, experiencing ethnic cleansing and Genocide today?
Some people may argue that we exist although we are not perceived by a God who has turned his back on humans; we are alive though we are not perceived. If it were true that the Biblical Christian God exists and he is good then he would not betray his people, but when searching the world it seems that the followers of this God are amongst those in the world who are suffering, although they devotedly follow him.
Some people may argue that we live and die at the will of God, and if we receive his blessing we exist, if we have lost his favour, or it is time for us to leave the earth we lose our life. That may be true, but it still does not explain why the first followers of the Christian God have become a nation who has literally been crucified by the world, through the denied genocide which was perpetuated against Assyrians at the hands of the Kurds and Ottoman Turks, and the atrocities that are occurring in the land between two rivers, modern day Iraq and Syria today.
I am sure that many people would say these types of arguments are based on emotion, but it is these types of thoughts which when investigated further will lead the human race to understand why we exist, who created us, and for what purpose. If God has done many great things, such as create the universe, he must also be held responsible for the many negative things which have occurred in the history of the human race.
There is blood on the hands of God and tears of children and cries of nations. God should be held responsible more than he is by Berkeley. It seems that Berkeley is so appreciative of his existence that he does not consider the pain which is involved in human life. Some people may also argue that the devil is responsible for these things and that God only works through miracles. This is illogical because the omnipotent God Berkeley argues for could do anything conveniently perceiving it.
Thoughts on Perception
Even if the devil is the cause of evil in the world God should fight and defeat this evil since he is more powerful than him. The Christian God is described as benevolent, so if this is true we should see the evidence in everyday life and not just by miracles for various people rather for all good people of various nations, cultures, and religions. Even if God the ultimate perceiver and producer of ideas is doing his best to let us know that he is there and that he exists that is not enough since God is omnipotent he must be there for those who suffer upon the earth. If the Biblical Christian God of Berkeley exists and he is omnipotent he has truly betrayed many people, including abused children and the early Christian nations like the Assyrians. By passively observing them God has taken part in their suffering.
One must note that the all loving Jesus that is described in the bible is very different from the God that Berkley is telling us can do anything by perceiving yet unresponsively observes human beings without interference. Jesus gave his own life for his people!
Ariew, Roger, and Watkins Eric. Readings in Modern Philosophy Volume II Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Associated Texts. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000.
Betbasoo, Peter. “Brief History of the Assyrians.” Aina Magazine. March 15, 2010. 6th paragraph. http://www.aina.org/aol/peter/brief.htm
Grayling A. C. Berkeley: The Central Arguments. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1986.
Sillem Edward. George Berkeley And The Proofs For The Existence Of God. New York: Longmans, Green and Co, 1957.
By Abbey Mikha
Veronica Franco led a double life where she was who she chose to be on the one hand, but also in her inner writing voice she revealed herself to be someone with varying and ambiguous points of views. Her words did not always match who she was in her professional identity. She was called the “honest courtesan.” This meant she was honored and virtuous, a sinner yet perhaps also a saint. Her duality can almost be compared to the ancient goddess of love and war such as Inanna that were spoken of in olden days, which also exhibited various characteristics in behaviors. Even in her writings it is evident there is a dilemma within her, confusion which causes ambiguity in her personality and in her letters and poems. Even though Franco participated in creating a new social role, her occupation was still contrary to some of her own beliefs and her spirit. She acted against her own opinions and will because of her personal circumstances and because of the situation of women in those days. She presented herself as a writer and intellectual not a provider of sexual services, yet she was both. Nonetheless, although she was an intellectual and wise woman there was ambiguity within the person Franco was in her professional life compared to who she was in her inner writing voice and in her letters and poems.
Women and the Fathers of the Church
Women would not be where they are today if it was not for the struggle of previous women of many hundreds and even thousands of years ago. There was a three thousand year history of misogyny and the hatred of women was rooted in the civilizations related to Western culture.[i] They were very much also rooted in the Christian civilization specifically. When discussing the person Veronica Franco it must be stated that the thoughts of the Fathers of the Church in regards to regular women at that time shed some light about the people and society that she was living in.
Saint Ambrose thought that a woman who was a true believer progressed to perfect manhood. Saint Augustine, the most important writer of patristic period tried to integrate Christian beliefs with Greek Philosophy and Plato and Philo influenced him. For him there was the issue of the body and soul dualism. Women equaled body, which was negative, and man equaled soul, which was positive. Soul was considered to be rational and the body was considered to be irrational. Irrational was woman. He focused on woman’s role in sin and “original sin.” Saint Augustine was revered during the Renaissance and many religious people, priests, bishops, and popes studied his writings. 
Many men of the church thought that women were the visible incarnation of lust. They interpreted Gen 3, the Fall Story, in terms of sex. Women tempted man, so it was her fault. They regarded women as the carriers of evil and guilt. Women on their own were not thought of as the image of God. The male individual was thought to be more honorable than the female individual. There was one good woman and that was the Virgin Mary and there were many bad women but one especially bad woman, Eve. Saint Thomas Aquinas thought the only purpose for which women had been created was procreation, because they in essence were defective. He thought women were by nature misbegotten. If pregnancy went well, the child would be male and perfect. If the child was female, it meant there was a problem with the pregnancy and the child was defective.
If women were such a plague upon the earth at that time then they had the right to do whatever they wished, even if it was to seek the freedom to be a courtesan, and to escape traditional life, which had them as wife and child bearer of numerous children and nothing more. Although being a courtesan was not seen as being a virtuous profession by other women and some men, it gave Veronica Franco something which she desired, which was some of her rights, power as a human being and as an individual, and the right to be educated, to read, write, study, and express herself in every way possible as a young woman.
The life of women at that time was very difficult. They were brought up to be strict Christians and abode by all the laws of the Church. It is doubtful that all the priests and bishops abode by all of their own laws, but they followed the laws of men, and they were men after all. They were associated with the soul according to all those famous philosophers and religious men of the past. If they broke the laws they could be forgiven for they could always repent to God. Veronica Franco was an enigma of a woman, living a double life, a life that she did not completely believe in, but which afforded her some of her wants to be free.
A Warning to a Mother Considering Turning her Daughter into a Courtesan
In this Letter Veronica Franco explains to a woman why she should not turn her daughter into a courtesan. She discusses fulfilling a “humane obligation.” She explains to the mother that if her daughter were to become a courtesan she would become her go-between and would therefore deserve the harshest punishment. She says that she begged and warned her to protect her daughter’s virginity. She advised her to help her daughter and teach her in such a way so as to marry her off decently. She says she offered her all the help she could even with the means at her disposal. She tells the woman that her daughter is not that beautiful and that she does not have grace, wit, or conversational qualities that would be needed in this type of a profession. She warns that this mother might break this young girls neck.
A woman had to be beautiful to be a courtesan and beauty was very much revered. If she was not beautiful she could not succeed in this profession. If she was ugly and poor then she was very unlucky and destined to live a very miserable life. Her only hope was a big dowry. To save herself and her family a girl should only be a courtesan if she had special qualities. The ambiguity in Franco’s letter is evident. She believes this profession to be something demeaning for any girl or woman and that it could destroy her yet she thrived in the profession. She followed upon this path and did not revert from it. Veronica Franco could have made enough money and then made a life for herself somewhere else but she did not. In the end of her letter Franco continues to promise the lady to help her in any way possible. Once again there is indistinctness in intent because she is willing to help a stranger and this is very kind, but she should be rather helping herself escape from this lifestyle which sometimes she agrees is negative and destructive, and other times she believes is honest. She says one thing and does another.
Veronica Franco’s Love for a Man of the Church
In this poem Franco expresses her love for a man of the Church. She sees the greatness in his character. She says about him, “The excellence of your luminous virtues.” Virtues that she perhaps was not said to have according to society. She says that his virtues dazzled and burned her from far away. This could also be understood as a double meaning. Burning her as in her want of him, but also burning her because she could not have him because of who he was and who she was. She also says that how is it that a courtesan would fall in love with someone who was her opposite in profession. Was he truly honorable and righteous? She continues that she was pierced in the center of her breast. She says, “And so I started to hope that with cautious pity you might have taken notice of my love.” He must be pious towards her, and compassionate to accept a woman of her profession, and she understands this. She wants a love that is pure and hallowed; one that befits her ideals yet who she is in her profession does not really match what she wants. She says:
When you are far beyond these salty waves,
I beg of you to visit me by means of letters,
Full of glad love that corresponds to mine;
And should you wish to please me
More fully, you can easily do so
By sending some of your works to me.
And should I be unworthy to obtain this
For any particular fame of my own,
I wish to place my hope in your generosity.
She always appeals to his compassion and bounteousness because of who she is and what she does. She knows that publicly her profession is not considered good by most people especially those of the Church, yet she falls in love with a Churchman almost purposely as to defy all convention. She is who she is but she also wants whom she wants whenever. She knows that what she is doing although she professes to be a good woman is also questionable by those people and everyone and when her words are analyzed it is evident that she knows that those acts which she commits are wrong not necessarily against society but against her own spirit. She seeks a man so unlike herself because she herself is not truly happy in whom she is. She is longing for what she cannot have and also who she could have been had she chosen a different path in life.
Although Veronica Franco was a “honest courtesan” and a writer, the way she perceived women’s roles in society and her view on gender relations was evident in whom she was. She was a freethinker, a revolutionary woman who defied all forms of rules of society to the point that she engaged in relationships with even supposed men of religion, so as to say to everyone that she is either beyond religion or that even she should be included in all aspects of society. She spoke through her writing and she influenced people as individuals, but in her writing she proved to be someone living a double life. It was through her words though that people could read that this sinner and saint wanted to be something that the society of the time did not afford to women. She wanted to be free, and to be who she wanted to be. She did challenge the social order for she was in her spirit and in her defiance in many ways a small light of hope for women of the future. It is true that she was out of the ordinary and also considered a radical by the Inquisition, but she was the antithesis of woman to the thesis of woman at the time. Through this human female dialectic and with the help of those like her, there became a synthesis of the woman of today.
On Advising a Young Man that Intellectuals Win Her Affection
In this letter she explains to a young man that of all the men who count on being able to win her love, the ones dearest to her are those who work in the practice of the liberal arts and disciplines, of which though she a woman of little knowledge, especially compared to her inclination and interest, was so fond. She said that it is of great delight that she talk with those who know so as to have further chances to learn, for if her fate allowed, she would happily spend her entire life and pass all her time in the academies of talented men. She wanted to be around these men because she wanted an education. She knew that the information they had to offer was important and could be of use to her. She basically peddled herself in order to be able to gain knowledge and wisdom. She knew that in a perfect world education would have helped her claim her rights and realize her potential in the economic, social, and even political arenas. She knew that education could uplift women out of the poverty that they were mostly living in. She could not boldly profess that all women should be allowed to have an education so she humbly expressed that she likes to be in the company of sophisticated men. Once again she is vague and ambiguous.
Franco, To a Man Who Has Insulted A Woman
In defending a woman who has been attacked by a man she explains what she truly feels in regards to men and women:
Look with the eyes of your good sense
and see for yourself how unworthy of you
it is to insult and injure women.
Unfortunate sex, always led about
by cruel fortune, because you are always
subjected and without freedom!
But this has certainly been no fault of ours,
because, if we are not as strong as men,
like men we have a mind and intellect.
And virtue does not lie in bodily strength
but in the vigor of the soul and mind,
through which all things come to be known;
And I am certain that in this respect
women lack nothing, but, rather, have given
more than one sign of being greater than men.
Though she believes that women are greater than men, she worked in an organized profession, which degraded women and called them whores. She says all the previous but she could not in all honesty profess those words to her patrons for they would find her opinion a little too disagreeable. This is the double life she lived, the life of actually believing something but living and pretending to be something else. In this poem she also says, “Attacking women is an obvious sin.” Yet those religious people who follow every letter of the word of God could have considered her entire life a life of sin. Sin is a controversial issue, and though her accusers may have been many, the God of her people, the God of Christendom Himself may have still forgiven her, perhaps for the sole reason as she the controversial woman in her poems, always said farewell to her friends with the biblical expression of goodbye said by Christ to His friends which was, “Go in peace.”
Veronica Franco tried to dismantle the stereotypes of the corrupt and shameless courtesan. She tried to create a new portrayal, one that reversed the image of the “whore.” She was a powerful woman, but she lived a double life; what she thought in her words and in her inner writing voice was actually different than the life she lived in her profession. The sexual equality that Franco was seeking seems similar to perhaps 20th century feminism. In the movie Dangerous Beauty Veronica Franco was glamourized and was depicted as a hero of Venice. Perhaps Hollywood took it a bit too far but the character of Veronica Franco deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt, which she was given in the movie.
We do not know the complete story of the courtesan. It goes back thousands of years. In ancient times the goddess was revered regardless of her controversial actions with men. Sometimes the goddess would seek out mortal men so that she could be with them, but this was a normal part of ancient society. There was also something called “holy prostitution.” If a goddess of the past such as the Sumerian Innana who was also called the goddess of love and war and also “the holy whore,” a goddess with many idiosyncrasies in her personality could get away with such actions thousands of years back, in the beginning of civilization, why should Veronica Franco not be forgiven by our society and also made into a female hero? The only difference between Franco and Inanna is that according to the Wikipedia page on “sacred prostitution” scholars believe that a form of sacred marriage ritual or “hieros gamos” was staged between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare, but no certain evidence has survived to prove that sexual intercourse was included. Franco was never married at all not even in this way.
In the final speech when Veronica Franco was confessing to the Inquisition in the movie she says, “I confess I became a courtesan, traded yearning for power, welcomed many rather than be owned by one…I confess I embraced a whore’s freedom over a wives obedience...” She may not have wanted to be such a woman in her heart but it was the freedom that she was seeking. She wanted a life where she could gain more knowledge and have the chance to be who she wanted to be. Not every woman in Renaissance time was meant to live a life with a partner and in the sacred institution of marriage. Veronica Franco was a free spirit. Who knows who she could have been had she lived in our times. In her times she was a courtesan but in her own spirit she was a goddess.
Ann Rosalind Jones, and Margaret F. Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Professor Milne. Women and Religion class, class notes, 2006.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, p ix.
 Professor Milne, Women and Religion class, class notes, 2006.
 Professor Milne, Women and Religion class, class notes, 2006.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 38.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 38.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 38.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 38.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 38.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 39.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 39.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 40.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p183.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p183.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p183.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p187.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p191.
Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 34.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 245.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 249.
 Jones, Rosenthal. Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters, p 71.
 Dangerous Beauty Movie 1998.
By Abbey Mikha
Jordanova Ludmilla, History in Practice second edition, New York: Oxford
University Press Inc, 2006.
What is truth? Can truth truly set a historian and a human free? Historical writing is always an unfinished work in progress but if the ideal of truth is always in the mind of the writer, then his or her work is a stepping stone towards truth. If a just God were writing the history of the world what would that history be? Would a just God have written "History in Practice" the way Ludmilla Jordanova did? Even when the facts are reasonably well established historians may differ radically in their interpretations of those same facts.
To truly be a historian one must seek truth above and beyond anything else. The biggest lie man has ever told in history is the denial of the genocide of the American and Canadian Native Indians. When most people think of genocide, the atrocities of Hitler immediately spring to mind. If a historian were to write that the United States and Canadian governments and its founding fathers also participated in mass genocide and assaults equal to those perpetuated against the Hebrew people in Germany, most scholars would call this truth unreliable. Ludmilla Jordanova mentions the Holocaust on fifteen pages in her book “History in Practice,” and rightfully so, but not once does she mention the struggle of the Native peoples of North America or any of the other forsaken people in history such as the Armenians, Pontic Greeks, and Assyrians who were also annihilated in 1915 by the Kurds and the Turks.
Jordanova herself is a highly distinguished historian of science. She is interested in the cultural history in early modern and modern Europe and the portraiture and identity in Britain from the seventeenth century to the present day. The worth of a historian and a human being is not in the sophisticated language one uses, but rather in taking the side of the poor and the meek and the forgotten. Jordanova considers the concept of truth, objectivity, knowledge and evidence. She writes about standards of reliability and truth, but she shifts to the grounds of the argument somewhat from an emphasis on truth to one on reliability. I disagree with her on this matter because there have been thousands of times throughout history when historians have emphasised reliability and yet were dishonest and truly selfish in trying to project their truth instead of the real truth of the world and history.
To Ludmilla Jordanova the writing of history is more important than the research but when one is seeking the truth both are equally important. The writing of history is influenced by our political prejudices and our subconscious but as human beings we are not all influenced negatively by our opinions because there are truly some more evolved types of human beings, and these people are able to be fair and just and for them objectivity and truth is more possible.
When the historian is searching for truth, the real truth and not just his or her own truth, but of truth itself, and he finds it then true history is written. Any other kind of history is just legend or a certain point of view. Jordanova is very broad and never concise in her book because she is looking at the practice of history from a very macro perspective. She believes that documents however reliable, can never tell us exactly what happened, even in the hands of the most impartial historians, yet she also realizes that without the documents we are that much worse off. According to Jordanova, with the documents we can at least write approximate accounts of what went on in the past which would mean that truth can never be reached by modern human beings and we should accept whatever historians write as long as it is backed up by sources.
I believe historical truth is accessible for anyone who is fair and honest and willing to put the time and effort to discover it. This requires a certain type of spirit and level of human being. Jordanova does not consider that the product of honest research and honest writing is truth. It seems that in Jordanova’s idea of history many more accounts can be written by historians than if the ideal was truth. Jordanova favours reliability and hence a historical procrastination of truth occurs.
Jordanova is a feminist whose primary area of expertise is the philosophy and history of science. Her book should be studied by advanced graduate history students because it is very complex. Jordanova seems to be suggesting that she is not writing the book for peers but it seems that she is trying to impress people in her field with her complicated opinions. The book satisfies our need for both theoretical understanding and practical advice. Her main goals are to provide an up-to date overview of important issues in the discipline, to locate history in the context of other related disciplines and to sketch in what historians actually do and how and why they do it. She examines history’s relationship with other disciplines especially anthropology, sociology, philosophy and literature.
She is ardent about the defence of the genuine significance of history and its capacity to speak meaningfully about past times, but she devalues history when she argues against the ideal of historical truth. Jordanova should have strived to be clearer in her explanations and she should not have used jargon when common language would have been more appropriate. She also should not have used abstract foreign terms when English was more comprehensible.
In chapter four of her book called “Status of Historical Knowledge” Jordanova tells the reader that history has been energetically challenged and has been subject to critical scrutiny, but of course every subject matter and especially history has been scrutinized in such a way because no other discipline is as untruthful. For example science and biology all speak of natural truth but history on the other hand has so many times proven to be false. She then considers that taking away the certainties which is in other words to say the truth promised by history has broad ramifications She is confused about truth. She wants to know the truth but she doesn’t want to be held accountable for it and she does not want to be the one to hold people completely accountable for it. Of course nothing in life may be certain unless it is absolutely true. She thinks that unsubstantiated claims, which need to be distinguished from ‘historical knowledge,’ are widely exchanged. She also considers the concepts of truth, objectivity, knowledge and evidence.
Jordanova writes about standards of reliability and truth but she shifts to the grounds of the argument somewhat from an emphasis on truth to one on reliability. I disagree with her on this matter as previously mentioned because there have been thousands of times throughout history when historians have emphasised reliability and yet were dishonest and truly selfish in trying to project their truth instead of the real truth. Jordanova believes that the quality of historical knowledge is important but the concept ‘truth’ does not seem productive, yet it seems when anyone is writing history without the principle of truth in mind they steer in wrong and deceitful directions.
The following is one of many examples where historians were dishonest in history because they did not follow the ideal of truth rather they had their own agenda in mind. In their book called “Time on the Cross” Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman used some of the quantification techniques to confuse traditional historians to produce a fairly comprehensive reinterpretation of the nature of the slave economy which was false. They used cleometrics to deceive people about slavery. The documents they used and the conclusions they came to seemed reliable according to the information they provided but in reality they were not being accurate and telling the truth about the struggle Africans suffered under slavery. It is the oppressed who suffer when truth is not made an ideal in historical writing, because it is they who are constantly being attacked by historians, because their struggle was so great and so unfair that some people want to deny them their right to feel the pride of having survived such acts of cruelty. Jordanova does not even mention one example where history was falsified.
Jordanova’s stress on reliable rather than on objective truthful knowledge she says is intended to be realistic and honest but it rather seems that she is taking the easy way out. She believes that historians should not promise what they cannot deliver and therefore need to be clear about what they can deliver. Hence she is underestimating historians and people who want to tell the story of history and of the world as it actually happened.
Jordanova also has a major issue with emotional writing. She believes that “strong identification with people in the past is regarded by some as suspect, because it implies an emotional commitment that clouds the ability to make judgments.”[i] Without emotions a historian cannot find truth because it is these emotions which lead to compassion for those who have been persecuted throughout history. Numbing the psyche by depriving it of our human emotions is counterproductive and what is truly lacking in Jordanova’s writing is that emotional humanitarian quality.
Jordanova also writes about how one would decide whether someone or something is reliable and she makes the point that consistency is important because if a person makes many claims which turn out to be true and which turn out to be corroborated by other evidence then this is a high level of consistency and reliability. She continues that authenticity is a highly problematic category in historical practice and how even in politically sophisticated work, it is not only present but traded upon, sometimes in quite emotionally manipulative ways.
I must stress that Jordanova has a major issue with emotions. She mentions the Holocaust and how she shares those emotional responses but that she is aware of the need to subject them to scrutiny. People suffered during the Holocaust and she emphasises with them, she should not feel guilty about it. She mentions emotions again as she says, “Claims to authenticity are problematic because they grant privileges on emotional grounds.”[ii] She is wrong and a historian can be objective even when feeling and being sensitive.
Jordanova believes that the goal of completeness is simply impractical especially since as the world of scholarship expands, there is more and more to read, but she does not consider that if the historian tries to be as truthful as possible, then another historian can take the information the first one has researched, and continue the research from there with the goal of completeness and truth in mind. It is said that a good historian tries to analyse history from all perspectives, so that he or she can eliminate bias, and Jordanova has tried to do that but she left out many subjects from her analysis.
“History from Below” is a chapter in the book “New Perspectives on Historical Writing,” and it is a concept of historical narrative in social history, which focuses on the perspectives of ordinary people, rather than political and other leaders. The term was popularised by British Marxist Historians during the 1960s. This school of history was among the first to use emotions and have a sympathetic approach to the lives of the poor and seek the truth of the life and history of the ordinary person. Jordanova does not seem interested in such kind of history. She mentions the term once in the text but she does not elaborate on it. She also has listed the term in the notes section and in the glossary. It is as if the concept was in the back of her mind, she may have wanted to mention it but it may have defeated her arguments. Since Jordanova was considering the issue of truth versus reliability she should have mentioned the concept of ‘history from below’ in one of her chapters.
History from below seeks to take as its subjects ordinary people, and concentrate on their experiences and perspectives, contrasting itself with the stereotype of traditional political history and its focus on the actions of “great men.” The term `history from below’ denotes a shift in viewpoint, from writing history from the perspective of political elites, using the documentary record that they left behind, to writing history from the perspective of social groups who had previously been largely ignored by history, including industrial workers, peasants, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor.
Jordanova has not made this kind of shift yet so it can be questioned whether she is an elitist. Until recently, history was often regarded as solely a matter of what the powerful, the famous, and the wealthy thought and did. What ordinary people felt and what they tried to accomplish was regarded as insignificant, not even worth regarding as part of history, but the truth is that real history is history from below because it is the untold story of humanity.
Jim Sharpe mentions in the chapter that “regretfully, that although the concept has been with us for over three decades, history from below has so far had comparatively little impact on mainstream history or on altering the perspectives of mainstream history.”[iii] History from below is the history of the future and historians like Jordanova who are traditionalists will not easily adapt to this kind of thinking.
Historians interested in the concept of ‘history from below’ could write about what has been called the “Armenian Genocide” which occurred during World War I in 1915 where one million Armenians, seven hundred and fifty thousand Assyrians and hundreds of thousands of Pontic Greeks perished at the hands of the Islamic Turks and Kurds. There is much awareness about this genocide among historians today but it is still not included in the history texts of university level students in Canada and the world because the millions of people that died are sadly considered insignificant. Jordanova certainly does not mention it.
Many Turkish historians claim that this was not genocide and that it was a time when Turkey was under attack by other countries and had to defend itself. Some other historians have called these claims reliable but the three nations who were subjected to these atrocities continue on their plight in the memory of their martyrs and in their hope that their voices will be heard.
Jordanova does not touch on such controversial issues and she does not defend anyone that history has not already shielded.
History from below emphasizes that not only professional historians but also ordinary people who are interested in the past of their families, communities, and organizations can contribute to the understanding of history. Through the concept of ‘history from below’ the truth of what occurred to many peoples of the world since the beginning of civilization can be discovered.
In the last chapter called “Trends” Jordanova writes in one section on the “Writing of World Histories.” The study of world history is in some ways a product of the current period of accelerated globalization and should be important to all historians especially because the world has become such a smaller place or as called a “small global village.” Jordanova gives this controversial and important subject one page and a half and she doesn’t really address any major issues. This type of history tends both to integrate various cultures and highlight their differences, but she does neither. Her idea of world history is the writings of Reynolds and Bayly, and John Robert’s. She does not mention any foreign historians. She states the fact that world history has become more popular in the last five year but she ignores most of the world’s history in her book.
Jordanova is a modernist and she never mentions any of the history from thousands of years ago which is so important for anyone studying history. She also does not mention her argument of reliability versus truth where it concerns world history. Jordanova is a Eurocentric historian and she writes from this point of view. She is not much concerned with discovering the true history of the world whether ancient or modern.
The study of the past or 'historical knowledge' is the process of researching the past using the available evidence. Historians argue about whose interpretation is most valid. These debates often last decades and are only resolved when either one side's research is shown to be of poor quality, or when new evidence comes to light proving one interpretation more true. Seeking the truth in history is one of the most admirable things a historian can do, and this is the only way that the true history of the world will be written.
Jordanova is inconsistent with the flow of her ideas and she debunked many concepts. She also does not define many of the terms she uses. Her strength is in the detailed detached style in which she writes, and her weakness is in the obvious lack of emotion involved in her book.
Jordanova is writing to be recognized and not necessarily to fight for some kind of high ideal which she truly believes in as a human being. If historians dedicated themselves to writing the real truth they would take responsibility for every word they write. I disagree with her on the matter of reliability versus truth because there have been thousands of times throughout history when historians have emphasised reliability and yet were dishonest and truly selfish in trying to project their truth instead of the real truth. The problem is not in her emphasis on reliability; the problem with Jordanova’s argument is that she discards truth as if to unreachable heights and hence makes peoples ideas unaccountable. Where is her faith in the ability of historians and where is her faith in humanity? Nonetheless, I am certain that it may take a lot of time before the sun will set on Jordanova’s writing but it will require sensitive truth seekers to call her and others out on her unemotional and rigid opinions on historical writing.
Works Cited and End Notes
Burke Peter, New Perspectives on Historical Writing second edition, Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.
Engerman L. Stanley, Fogell William Robert, Time on the Cross: Evidence and
Methods-A Supplement, Boston-Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.
Jordanova Ludmilla, History in Practice second edition, New York: Oxford University
Press Inc, 2006.
[i] Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice second edition, New York: Oxford University Press Inc, 2006. Pg 90
[ii] Jordanova, History in Practice, Pg 93.
[iii] Peter Burke, Jim Sharpe, New Perspectives on Historical Writing second edition, Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004. Pg 38.
To get Abbey's newsletter please add your email to the contact form bellow. Thank you!
Abbey is a writer and blogger interested in humanitarian issues. She is also a defender of her Assyrian nation, from a young age spreading the Sacred Assyrian Message.
All articles at the Assyrian Thinker website are the copyright (©) 2016 Abbey Mikha