This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coming to Terms

Tears of the Faithful

    I don’t mind revealing that when I heard the news of the burning of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, that I cried – I cried tears of human frustration and spiritual pain.  For context, consider if the Louvre, British National Museum, the Vatican Library and Archives or the Smithsonian had been bombed and destroyed by terrorists – that is the level of cultural crimes against humanity that we are potentially witnessing.
    How can religious persons justify the taking of a life in the name of their religion?  Worse, how can they seek to destroy the very essence of humanity, of life and of shared culture by sacking mosques, churches and museums or burning lecture halls and libraries?  All I can note is that if they are seeking to demonstrate their spiritual distance from the rest of humanity, they have in fact succeeded – for in no way might such persons honestly qualify themselves as human – their error lies in the fact that these are not the acts of saints or angels, but rather the very essence of evil in allegiance with the fallen ones who desire to destroy the testimony and record of God.
    And no, I am not the only person to weep over such things.  People all over the world were horrified as the Arno threatened Florence.  In 410 CE, Jerome wept when he received the news that Rome had fallen.  Jesus wept over the lack of insight and understanding amongst his followers.  American soldiers risked their lives protecting the treasures and records of the Iraqi National Museum during the US-led occupation.
    A disaster-genre movie, The Day After Tomorrow, contains a dialogue between a young student and an atheist intellectual who is carefully guarding New York Library’s Gutenberg Bible:

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Schools

Public Memorials at Sandy Hook Elementary
    Americans are still struggling to come to grips with the recent massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  Nationally, the mood has gone from one of shock and mourning to one of blame and politics – a game that possibly threatens to injure even more innocents by depriving children with potential mental health issues and struggles from realizing full and equal civil rights and lifestyles commiserate with those of their peers.  This is a dangerous game.  Despite the confident advertising of the pharmaceutical psycho-therapeutical commercial industry, we really do not seem to understand very much at all about the inter-connectivity between personality, action and psychological states of mind.  In fact, we seem uncomfortably unable to answer basic questions as to what “normal” is, let alone how to define, treat and legislate the abnormal.  
    The world of psychological and emotional disorders is too complicated for untrained lawmakers, or even worse, lawyers, to try to fix in their well-meaning, amateurish, headline-grabbing sort of way.  Persons with real needs and disabilities might easily find themselves caught between hardline conservative Tea Party gun-slingers desperate to avert the disaster of gun control and the good intentions of the liberal left (often with an eye towards their own professional pocketbooks).  Blaming events such as Sandy Hook on the mentally ill not only conveniently deflects criticism and legislation aimed at non-sporting gun owners and sociologically suspect separatists, but seems to buttress age-old political slogans stating that guns don’t kill people, it is the “mentally ill” person behind the gun that kills people.
    On the other side, you have a juggernaut of compassionate, caring, professional liberals split between well-intentioned if too often ineffective efforts to aid and assist the mentally ill and disabled and the promise of increased budgets and funding into their programs, clinics and practices.  The decision to blame the mentally ill for social disasters is a dangerous path that must be trod most gingerly and with a humility that is not yet present in the debate.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mennonite Ties to Postmodern Poetry


en je'dijchta

A poem referring to funeral clothes:

Requium, pt III[1]
Anna Akhmatava

No, this is not I,
But someone else,
For this much
I could not suffer,
Let the black cloth
What has happened
And let them take away
The lanterns . . .

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Swartz's Legacy: Public Goods and Private Profits

Aaron Swartz courtesy London Guardian
en Eenhaundel 

 Of increasing concern to the Internet Generations has been the conflict between the rights of the individual and protection of the public or communal good against the means and goals of private enterprise (a wealthy few) to benefit from manipulation of the individual and exploitation of public resources.  Far from being a new fad or youthful preoccupation, this is merely the latest battle between privilege and the profit of the few against the common rights and dignity of the individual and recognition of the shared access to and interest in the common good.  The only difference between the Internet cultural conflicts of the early 21st Century and struggles against religious oppression and royal prerogative in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and between the individual and Big Business in the 19th and 20th Centuries  is the public resource over which the battles are being fought.
    Reminiscent of former struggles against Borgia Popes or against the censors of l’ancien regime, the last two months have witnessed seemingly excessive efforts on the part of United States Feds to exert the full might, power and authority of their government against the lives and ideals of two rather ordinary young men on behalf of American Big Business interests in the media, culture and formal economy.  These youth represent a sort of Robin Hood versus the ‘Man’ in the complicated but lucrative world of the modern Internet.  Both stories have, however, come to rather different conclusions – one malféant being forgiven and the other hopelessly determining to end an extremely promising and rather gifted life in suicide.

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