Mankind has embarked on a journey that has taken us from caves to houses. From cold, miserable existence to dry homes with heat, cooking facilities and "....", yes that too! It is largely the evolution in thought and belief that moved our lives to relative comfort. Radical ideas are frightening and yet are necessary.
The books reviewed below offer viewpoints which are not accepted by most Americans today. Despite their unpopularity, the expressed viewpoints are articulate, rational and companionate. General Butler USMC Retired presents clear evidence for his belief that unnecessary wars will continue as long as wars generate huge corporate profits. The Glass Rabbit is the diary of a 12 year old girl in WWII Japan. One can not read this book without realising the Japanese people have suffered enough. We must leave that behind. Over time, more books and more unpopular ideas of value will be presented in the forum below. Some of these ideas will bear fruit for humanity.
In The Land of Invented Languages by linguist, Arika Okrent, 2009. 4 Star (Linguist/Cultural Analysis)
There is no more strident attack on culture than the notion that, "The multiplicity of national languages is dividing humanity, creating prejudice and foisting wars upon mankind." Essentially, this viewpoint points the accusing 'finger of history' at the Tower of Babel.
Circa 1890, Doctor Zemenof wrote "... growing up in a city of enmity between four language groups, I become convinced at every step that it (confusion created by multiple languages) is a primary force that divides the human family into enemy parts ..."
This and other "high level" attacks against the effects of language led to development of "invented languages" by scholars in Poland, Germany, France, England, Australia and the United States.
The 'Title Book' examines artificial languages, inventors and their motives for several of these languages. Specifically, the book examines the most successful of these, Esperanto by Doctor Zemenof and modern Hebrew. Both are used by active speakers in the world today. Blissymbolics and a few others are discussed in moderate detail.
Linguist Okrent presents a clear discussion of invented languages along with commentary on the reasons why languages throughout the world are often ambiguous means of communication (e.g. Mary and John moved a piano. How many pianos were moved?)
This book is an interesting overview of a rather odd topic. Some of the languages discussed include:
The Glass Rabbit by Toshiko Takagi- 5 Star Diary (buy from Amazon or other on line sources)
I lived for a time in the U.S. Mariana Islands - not far from Japan. During that time, I met many wonderful Japanese people and visited their country several times. A few weeks after my first visit, I received a "care package" from Japan. In the package, my Japanese friends provided the most sensitively selected gifts imaginable. Beautiful things from and about their country. Things that remind me always of my visit and of their kindness. One of those gifts was a little book titled "The Glass Rabbit." I believe it was their way of saying "That time of history has past. Great was the suffering on both sides. We shall all let it pass." So now, share their wisdom through my review of "The Glass Rabbit."
The Glass Rabbit is the diary of a 12 year old girl who grew up as Japan was destroyed by WWII. I read this book when it was given to me by Japanese friends. As Americans, we like to think of the "just war that was won". As the true story of a 12 year old girl's experience, it is devoid of political or heroic themes. Rather, it is an intimate look at the effects of war on people, and particularly young and largely helpless people.
The book is a heart grabbing account of loss of family, loss of security; but also of deep kindness of strangers and its contrast to the selfishness of relatives who's hearts should have been better.
In the final analysis, I believe this book cries out for all people to forget the sting of wars in the past and to open their hearts to humanity. I have visited Japan many times and visited with many lovely people and friends. They have put this experience behind them; but, as I look at my American friends I can see we have not. Read this great little book & it will open your heart to forgiveness.
War is a Racket by Smedley Butler, USMC Major General Retired. 5 Star (Social Analysis)
Smedley Butler was a highly decorated Marine General who wondered why he was leading the Marines into so many overseas places. After he retired, he researched the matter and summarized many of his conclusions in this very brief book shortly before WWII.
Smedley's conclusions seem well founded and well researched. His book reveals that major corporations make huge war-time profits while the common soldier has a miserable life. Worse still, his research demonstrates that many of the products bought by Uncle Sam during WWI, were either not needed or not usable. Examples include aircraft that would not fly and ships built of green wood which sank.
The reader will find Smedley's research convincing, and will be left wondering whether conditions today are unchanged. Some readers will conclude that 'Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction' were simply a pretext for invading an oil rich country and that Smedley Butler's thesis remains at the heart of many government decisions even today.
The Jesus Mysteries by Gandy & Freke. 5 Star Heretical Writing
Histories are written by the winner and his perspective becomes orthodoxy. This is just as true of religious history and writers Gandy and Freke lever off information discovered in the Gnostic Library at Nag Hamadi Egypt and classical writings by Greek Philosophers in their attempt to pierce the veil created by 1000 years of church persecution for differing views. While this statement will irritate many, we are all aware of the Spanish Inquisition. Many readers are also aware of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France. During this crusade, thousands of apparently Gnostic Christians were slaughtered by the mercenaries at the behest of the Pope Innocent III. Put directly, there is no question that a reign of terror under church authority was widespread and prolonged. Grave damage to historical objectivity is the inescapable result. This book is an attempt by Gandy and Freke to repair the historical damage and provide insight into alternative interpretations of Jesus.
The Jesus Mysteries appears to be a well researched and thoroughly rational justification of a provocative theory. It begins with a comparison of what is known about Jesus vs. what is known of predating Pagan superstars such as Dionysus, Pythagoras and others. The similarities far exceed coincidence. If this book's assertions about the Pagan Superstars are accurate, then something very bizarre has occurred in the chain of religious history.
Writers Gandy and Freke gradually reveal their explanation. Personally, I found their reasoning and references sound; but disquieting and thoroughly heretical.
The conclusions of this book are powerful; yet disquieting. In response, I will soon be reading books about the Nag Hamadi find of Gnostic writings. My selection will be written by a main stream scholar in the hopes of finding either support or dismissal for the ideas presented in the Jesus Mysteries.
As a personal note, I will comment that Christianity has long been guided by the Council of Nicea -- a group of early Christian clerics called together by Constantine, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire circa 300 AD. The consequences of Nicea were the extreme "narrowing of the gate" of approved orthodox Christian thought and the burning of all books (and people) that expressed different interpretations. Overnight, thousands of well meaning people who considered themselves Christians became heretics. While a significant event in Christian history, book burning and suppression of ideas are not concepts that play well in the theatre of modern consciousness.
This book has been placed in the "counter culture" section at least until I have reviewed additional sources that may shed light on the expressed views.
Peoples History of America by Professor Howard Zinn 5 Star (Social History)
Histories are written by the winner and his perspective becomes orthodoxy. Professor Zinn set out to write a "History of America" from the viewpoint of the weak and the defeated. He brings unpleasant little details of history under the spotlight. Example: Christopher Columbus was heavily debt ridden and cruelly enslaved island natives, selling many into slavery in an attempt to "balance the books" with creditors. Example: General Andrew Jackson allied himself with several Indian Chiefs in order to defeat the others. He promised they would retain their lands, but double crossed them after the needed victories were achieved.
This book is more than a compendium of "unpleasant little details", but rather a chronological and detailed look at history from start to present. Those interested in truth will find it interesting. Those interested in a glorious and honourable history of our country will not.
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Paul F. Watson