On Easter Sunday while, the world over, excited children searched for hidden easter eggs, a bomb exploded in a busy public park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 72 and injuring over 350 others. 24 of the deaths were children. The Taliban claimed responsibility: the atrocity was deliberately aimed at christians celebrating easter.
What sort of a world do we live in?
That a human being would attack innocent people thus is incomprehensible in terms other than the demonic. It is a surfeit of evil, a radical evil.
I remember a scene from the 1986 film “The Mission” set against the backdrop of the Treaty of Madrid in 1750. Don Hontar commenting on a recent massacre of indigenous people in the Paraguayan jungle, says with a weary fatalism,”The world is thus”. Cardinal Altamirano corrects him: “No, thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it” – a powerful rejoinder that admits culpability as well as a responsibility to do good and not harm.
Easter Sunday is the day on which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, saviour of the world, who came to reconcile man to God and all men to each other in love – regardless of race or creed. And yet this evil act that left innocent men, women and children dead and mutilated speaks more of crucifixion than of resurrection.
“We all receive the gift of innocence from God in childhood yet everywhere we see innocence crucified” – Patricia de Menezes
I find it difficult to see resurrection in this world – at least in the affairs of men.
Perhaps, as the gospels say, the kingdom of God is hidden, and we need the vision of faith to apprehend it. Sometimes, the darkness seems to overwhelm the light. Saint John’s Gospel says, “ The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” and yet everywhere one looks around the world, in the media, and reaching back through time, it seems darkness has spread it’s suffocating wings across the world like some huge maleficent bird.
In response to the attack Pakistan’s Prime minister said,”We are keeping count of every drop of the blood of our martyrs. We will not rest until the cost of this blood is avenged.“
And his anger is understandable: the murderers must be brought to book.
But in these words there is an ominous intimation of more bloodshed to come: We will not rest until the cost of this blood is avenged.
This need to avenge is but one more nail hammered into the cross. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind” – the cycle of vengeance is self-perpetuating, each act of vengeance justifying and precipitating the next. This is not to avow some spineless pacifism, but to affirm a position of restrained, stoical strength – to limit our own thirst for blood. Is justice possible without vengeance? I don’t know. Our call for justice – and the necessary tracking down of our enemy – must be tempered with an attitude of self-discipline and grim resolve which disavows the frenzied baying for blood. Or there will be even more Lahores, and the blood that already flows from the wounds of a crucified world will not abate.
Reading again the news reports of the Lahore bombing, I felt the sense of powerlessness and despondent fatalism expressed in Don Hontar’s words. So many crimes, so many atrocities, too little justice. I find myself easily withdrawing into the pessimism of Ecclesiastes as a final defense against the horror. What if it were me who had lost my family in this massacre? What if I had witnessed the dismembered bodies of innocents in that park on Easter Sunday? How would I even begin to process this? How is a child who has witnessed such carnage to cope? And yet reading the article I am conscious of the disquieting, hermetic distance between myself and the event – a tragedy far away, read about on the small, impermanent pixels of a mobile phone hurts less than a minor inconvenience close at hand. But as I imagine myself seeking my own child amongst the bloody bodies of Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, I am overcome by the horror of it.
But there is another aspect to this massacre which must be faced: the lies and hypocrisies which surround the dialectic of terror. Without seeking to justify the atrocity – we must ask what acts of our own spawn such evil?
“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.” Noam Chomsky
I will quote in full from The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
“A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties. The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.
The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years. Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children. The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The deadliest attack killed more than 40 people – including 22 children and 12 women – when a Tomahawk cruise missile fired from a naval vessel ploughed into the village of al-Majala on December 17, 2009.”
The nightmare of drone strikes killing innocent civilians is just as heinous a crime as any suicide bomber’s act of cowardice. Noam Chomsky writes,
“The word ‘terrorism’ has a meaning, it is defined in the US and international law and so on. But that’s not the definition we are allowed to use. We use the word terrorism in a way which means there’s terrorism against us but not our terrorism against them. That’s not terrorism. So for example, if we use the word “terrorism” in its literal meaning, the most extreme terrorist operation in the world today would be Obama’s global assassination campaign, the drone campaign.”
We could get into a lengthy philosophical debate about just wars and moral equivalence – but what difference does that make to a mother holding her dead child in her arms?
As the self-righteous aggressors in this conflict trade accusations and hide behind lies, vehement denials of wrong-doing and euphemisms to excuse their own acts of violence, I wonder where God is in all this – other than in the corrupted religious vocabulary of extremists and reactionaries.
Then I realise Christ is there: in the bloody park in Lahore, lying amongst the mangled corpses. He lies dismembered in the dust of some arid tribal backwater in Afghanistan, amongst the torn bodies of children.
“A typical hyena clan is governed by very strict eating rules. The queen mother and her daughters eat first followed the father and sons and the rest of the clan can follow thereafter. Those who disturb the clan rules go hungry or get ruthlessly punished.
Those who have captured strategic sections of our economy, the state, and the political institutions that are supposed to defend our democracy have adopted the hyenas’ rules, and there is no shortage of those prepared to be subject to these rules, to let the first family eat first, with a promise that they too will eat afterwards.
If unchecked, this will deliver us into a full kleptocractic capitalist order.”
Read the full article at
“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” – Niels Bohr, quantum physicist
“What we perceive as our physical material world, is really not physical or material at all, in fact, it is far from it. This has been proven time and time again by multiple Nobel Prize (among many other scientists around the world) winning physicists, one of them being Niels Bohr, a Danish Physicist who made significant contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory.” (citation required).
The problem here is that the serious study of quantum physics has been obscured online and in the popular media by new age hacks, motivational speakers, psychic healers, life coaches and pseudo mystics. They have taken the work of profound minds and shoehorned it into all manner of popularist pseudo-philosophies. They take a quantum leap from Einstein to the kind of inane headlines I came across this morning: “Using Quantum Physics in my Life to Manifest what I Want” and “Everything is Energy: New Ways to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit”.
As to whether everything is “just energy” – this too demands a more intelligent response than seems to float about the cyber-ether. Einstein is reported to have said “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics”. Except that Einstein never said or wrote such a thing at all, and the real author of these words was Darryl Anka, a “New Ager” who claims to be channeling a “multi-dimensional extra-terrestrial being” named Bashar (c.f. https://www.quora.com). Einstein purportedly said, “reality is a persistent illusion” which is a misquote of his actual words, “The separation of past, present and future is only a persistent illusion” referring to the fact that time is a human psychological experience and not an innate property of the universe. (c.f. https://www.quora.com)
Defining the real remains illusive, but I wish to assure new agers that should a brick fall on their head there will be real pain from a real wound, and that even if Newtonian physics is no longer de rigueur, leaping from a tall building will have a similar result as an apple falling from a tree.
An interesting read:
But this is not to dismiss the strangeness of the quantum world. Noam Chomsky (American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic, and political activist) wrote:
“What is the concept of body that finally emerged? The answer is that there is no clear and definite conception of body. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise.”. In one sense, what is real depends on the perspective of the observer.
Some fun factoids from Physics.org :
1) You could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube. This is because matter is incredibly, mind-bogglingly empty. An atom is like a miniature Solar System, with a tight nucleus playing the role of a Sun orbited by electrons like planets. But the nucleus is incredibly tiny compared with the orbits of the electrons. Tom Stoppard, the playwright, had the best image. He said, if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul’s cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral, one moment by the altar, the next by the dome. Imagine squeezing all the space out of an atom. Well, if you did that to all the atoms in all the people in the world, you could indeed fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube.
2) 98% of the universe is invisible. Only four per cent of the mass of the Universe is in the atoms that make up you and me, the stars and planets. And we’ve only ever seen half of that with our telescopes. 23 per cent of the mass of the Universe is invisible, “dark”, matter. We know of its existence only because its gravity tugs on the visible stars and galaxies. No one knows what it is. And 73 per cent of the mass of the Universe is dark energy. Discovered only in 1998, this invisible stuff fills all of space and it has repulsive gravity. To say we are at sea in understanding dark energy is a bit of an understatement.
Our best theory of physics is quantum theory. It has given us lasers and computers and nuclear reactors, an understanding of why the sun shines. But when quantum theory is used to predict the energy of the vacuum – of the dark energy – it gets a number which is one followed by 120 zeroes times bigger than what we observe. This is the biggest discrepancy between a prediction and an observation in the history of science.
3) Most of an atom is empty space. If an atom were about as big as a baseball stadium, the nucleus would be the size of a pea in the very center and the electrons would be somewhere on the outside edge.
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) is the originator of modern quantum theories and one of the most important German physicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. He wrote, “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”
The Three Days.
Pope Francis told priests in a solemn Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday that God is mercy, not ‘complicated theology’.
“Speaking directly to thousands of priests in attendance for the liturgy, the pontiff later said that Jesus had called for ministers “who are poor, hungry, prisoners of war, without a future, cast to one side and rejected.”
“As priests, we identify with people who are excluded, people the Lord saves,” said the pope. “We remind ourselves that there are countless masses of people who are poor, uneducated, prisoners, who find themselves in such situations because others oppress them.”
The pontiff said that after God grants someone forgiveness through God’s mercy they are immediately restored to their full dignity.
“God does not only forgive incalculable debts … he also enables us to move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages,” said Francis.
In his words directly to priests, the pontiff said they sometimes also feel trapped “by a digital, virtual worldliness that is opened and closed by a simple click.”
“We are oppressed not by threats and pressures like so many poor people, but by the allure of a thousand commercial advertisements which we cannot shrug off to walk ahead, freely, along paths that lead us to love of our brothers and sisters, to the Lord’s flock, to the sheep who wait for the voice of their shepherds,” he said.
Francis ended the homily by mentioning his ongoing Jubilee year of mercy, asking that God will “let us commit ourselves anew to bringing God’s mercy to all men and women, and performing those works which the Spirit inspires in each of us for the common good of the entire faithful People of God.”
Citation: National Catholic Reporter Online