Black Muslim in the USA – The Hidden Truth Beneath Our Eyes

By Erlangga Utama

Islam arose as a religion that believed in God’s (Allah) messages, knowledge, wisdom, answers, and orders for human beings who live in tribulation. Initially, it was only practiced by a small community on Arab soil. Today, the scale of its following is growing, and it is now the fastest growing religion, its followers spreading across the continents across the globe. The founder of Islam was a prophet called Muhammad SAW (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), who was an illiterate Arab merchant. By the help of God through an angel named Gabriel (Jibril in Arab), Muhamad SAW was able to spread this belief to his followers through a holy book, the Koran (Al-Quran). Following Muhammad’s passing, the number of Muslims kept multiplying. We can see the result of Islam’s manifestations that consisted of the Ottoman empire through to the Cordoba civilization, which introduced Islam and it’s knowledge to Europe, the history of Muslim merchants who migrated across the Silk Road between Central Asia and Indo-China, and last but not least, it emerged as a prominent force during the civil rights movement in the USA that fought for the rights of black communities.

In Islamic history, as written in the Koran, many stories are told about the slave trade that was commonly practiced in the so-called ancient Jahiliah period, whereby Islam arose to counter this abomination. Throughout history, consolidation of fortunes have enabled several men in power to enslave the “weak” masses, a practice of which continues to occur to this day throughout every major civilisation. The history of slavery during the rise of Western civilization can be seen when the colonialists & scientists traded African slaves, who were tragically treated inhumanely. The slaves were traded as property, used as unethical biological experiments, and exploited as free laborers on American soil. Furthermore, the African cultures and Islamic identity owned by the slaves were abolished by the colonialists. African slaves were seen as racially inferior by their oppressive white captors who based their foundations on racist and supremacist interpretations of Darwinist theories. These underlying roots kickstarted the racism which appeared in the United States; namely, the continual oppression of black people.

So, can we generalize that most white Americans detest and look down upon Muslims and black people? Of course not, although examples such as the fact that the relationship between Islam and the United States of America has never fully recovered since the 9/11 tragedy, highlight the fact that issues continue to persist. Many innocent victims have died due to terrorist activities in the name of Islam; something of which is exacerbated through the cognitive dissonance aggravated through media propaganda and distortion. Subsequently, many western people started to become suspicious of Muslims and became exaggeratedly paranoid about terrorist activity, and consequently, Islamophobia has since become a global issue. This tension has continued and intensified under the presidency of Donald Trump, who relentlessly spread his propaganda, resulting in increased white supremacy, racial tensions, divisions and issues, not to mention immigrant rejection; a humanitarian crisis on several levels!

According to the FBI’s data in 2001, increasing numbers of cases of intimidation towards Muslims in the USA were reported, which progressively increased in the years that followed. According to pew research data, this statistic indicates that a large proportion of Donald Trump’s voters are responsible for much of the intolerant behaviour aimed at American Muslims. We can negatively stereotype this with the “redneck” community, who have since become synonymous with the red MAGA (Make America Great Again) baseball caps. As with all stereotypes, we need to look beneath the surface, as interestingly enough, there is a redneck Muslim called Shane Akitson who has raised concerns about the Trump regime. In an interview with PBS, he confessed his reason for converting to Islam, which he largely attributed to Malcolm X and the influence of Hip Hop, and he also discussed the anxiety recent current political events had caused him. Against all odds, he nonetheless tries to maintain ties and dedication to both Muslim and redneck communities.

Despite living in an era of accelerating technological advancement, racism nonetheless continues to persist. Recently, we saw the appalling police brutality of George Floyd, who died whilst under police custody through being violently mishandled. To exacerbate matters, Floyd also had a history of criminal activity and drug abuse, having been under the influence whilst being detained on that tragic night. This highlights far deeper issues underlying Floyd’s unfortunate demise, such as those of a failing system that inadequately addresses preventative measures to stop such incidences and their underlying causes from occurring. This tragedy was a time bomb that exploded through the help of social media, the murder was captured in a 10 minute video urging vast numbers of protesters from across the world from the United States, to Europe and Asia, to take action by gathering and protesting on the streets, voicing out civil rights issues over inhumane law enforcement injustices. To this day, black people are still disproportionately represented as victims of excessive law enforcement, injustice, and systematic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement insists on improvement inside the United States’ justice system, despite the fact that Trump’s presidency has shown a lack of concern to listen to people’s voices and cooperate by attending to their concerns.

Even though Black & Muslim people have been in the land of Uncle Sam for centuries, they still consider themselves as dual minority citizens. Nevertheless, population statistics indicate that these are large and fast-growing demographic. not only for the black population, but those of Muslims too. Given the large numbers of Muslim populations in the US, it is unfortunately unsurprising to see increased incidents of intimidation towards Muslims.

Black Population in the US
Muslim Population by state

As can be seen, blacks make up the largest Muslim demographic in the US, with a current population of around 862,000. It is difficult in many respects for black Muslims in America due to the widespread prevalence of Islamophobia and racism, and the fact that they are considered to be dual minority citizens. Even though Obama had been the first black President of the USA, racial discrimination towards black people nonetheless still continues to persist as unfortunate recent events have indicated. Racism has been persistent in the USA since its inception, most evidently since the Jim Crow era in the late 19th Century, although not many people realize that this particular era also oversaw the birth of Islam in the USA too.

A Nation Inside A Nation

Black people were unable to leave their oppressive conditions in the USA during the Jim Crow era, whose grim history reveals systematic segregation and inexorable racist practices. On humanistic terms, oppression jeopardizes the intrinsic value of what it means to be human. Slaves underwent forced labour for large corporations and governments, and whenever they found obedient or submissive slaves, beatings and slaughters were inexorably delivered upon them, with some even being stabbed and hung by their oppressors. In the midst of this social turmoil, a sacred light came from God (Allah), and Islam became a refuge which offered hope for the oppressed black slaves. The seeds of civil rights and human rights movements brought about through Islamic teachings would later underlie the impulses that would bring forth “a nation” inside a nation.

Islam has been a force fighting for the abolition of slavery ever since the prophet Muhammad SAW, and its mission has sustained its purpose amongst various circles, leading up to the inception of the organization known as the Nation of Islam (NOI), that emerged in the USA in the 20th Century. This organisation has played important roles, such as maintaining slavery abolition, encouraging the subsistence of the black community, fighting the domination of white supremacy through law protection, providing educational and economic solutions for enhancing the quality of life of black Americans, and restoring the African cultures and heritage that were brutally abolished. All these efforts are embodied as a symbol of a counter-attack towards an injustice system that overwhelms the wholesome picture of the ideal American society.

Fard Muhammad | Wikipedia

Ideologically, the Nation of Islam has brought about another kind of Islamic hegemony, to some extent, different from traditional Islamic thinking. The organization was surreptitiously formed by a mysterious white man named Fard Muhammad whose identity is untraceable, to the extent that even Intelligence agents could not find his information. After his disappearance, a black man named Elijah Muhammad, a chosen student of Fard’s, replaced him to lead the organization.  Fard’s legacy seems controversial. Some of his followers believed that he was an embodiment of supreme God (Allah) who appeared as a silk merchant in a Detroit Ghetto, and others saw him as a prophet who brought about revelation in the 20th century. His mysterious appearance triggers some questions. How can he persist to spread Islamic teachings in the middle of a chaotic situation within a short period? How did he vanish so fast from the government’s eyes while the organization was being watched? Perhaps, he is a man of miraculous ways – possibly an angel who descended as a force of divine will.

Elijah Muhammad | biography.com

A narration that formed around Fard M. in the organization’s mind was as valuable as African folklore that is delivered from generation to generation. He told about inspiring discourses that evoked black community consciousness. Fard M. recognised black people’s predecessors as a high race, that should make them proud of Islam and proud to be Muslim, and consider it the righteous and impeccable religion to eradicate slavery. This teaching was to instil confidence in black people. When Elijah Muhammad was in leadership, he wrote a book that depicts the predecessor of black people, Jacob, The Father of Humankind. This is not a story of Jacob (Yakub) from a monotheistic religion’s perspective, but rather, it is a myth of a genius large-headed black scientist who invented biological and race experiments, and who at some point, would excogitate the white race to blemish and rule the earth. Departing from this myth, Elijah Muhammad considered white people to be the devilish spawn, which he preached whilst converting incarcerated black men. This is a controversial statement, and contradicts the belief of Islamic fundamentals, whether Sunni or Shia, as both sects only adhere to the unseen omnipotent God, not an ephemeral human God. This is why Islamic practice in the Nation of Islam is markedly unique. Perhaps this form of teaching was the only way to tackle injustice in the context of racial segregation in the USA.

The Fruits

Warith Deen Muhammad | blackpast.org

Fard Muhammad evanesced from history in 1930 and Elijah Muhammad continued his path. Despite Elijah’s controversial statements, prominent world figures emerged from his leadership. To name but a few, Malcom X and Muhammad Ali were two young men of NOI generations that influenced the global view of civil and human rights. Following the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son, Warith Deen Muhammad, replaced his father as Nation of Islam’s leader. He did not espouse his father’s legacy, and reoriented the organization’s stance to Sunni Islam. Some of Elijah’s adherents deplored Warith’s decision that Elijah Muhammad’s legacy would be revived and preserved by the controversial Louis Farrakhan.

Louis Farrakhan | britannica.com

These examples name but a few of NOI’s fruits; it is not an easy task to maintain diverse ideas within such an organization. To achieve diversity, minds inside organizations should ideally assimilate contrasting perspectives to prevent discordance from arising. Malcom X was a great example of NOI’s fruits, but later decided to leave the organization and start his own movement, herding civil rights sympathizers and practising Sunni Islam. Nevertheless, Malcom X is a world figure through NOI’s previous roles & support, which makes him a product of the organisation.

Malcolm X | biography.com

The Harmony within a relationship between guru and students is depicted on the journey of Fard & Elijah Muhammad. Likewise, Malcom X and his students also decided to split from the organization. Malcom X’s student, Clarance 13X founded a new organization and built a cultural center in New York called The Nation of Gods & Earths, otherwise referred to as The Five Percenters Nation. The reason Clarance 13X left NOI was because of his rebuttal to the notion that Fard Muhammad was white. He was more convinced that a black man was incarnated in the written tenets of the organization.

Clarence 13X | Pinterest

Tenets of the Five Percent Nation

(1.) That black people are the original people of the planet Earth.

(2.) That black people are the fathers and mothers of civilization.

(3.) That the science of Supreme Mathematics is the key to understanding man’s relationship to the universe.

(4.) Islam is a natural way of life, not a religion.

(5.) That education should be fashioned to enable us to be self-sufficient as a people.

(6.) That each one should teach one according to their knowledge.

(7.) That the black man is God and his proper name is ALLAH (Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head).

(8.) That our children are our link to the future and they must be nurtured, respected, loved, protected and educated.

(9.) That the unified black family is the vital building block of the nation.

The fruits of NOI did not stop growing at this stage. The distinct differences of Islamic interpretation between NOI & The Five Percenter Nation on fighting the same oppression has been expounded upon by Hip Hop messengers and founders. Examples include Kool Herc & Afrika Bambaataa, who were known to personally adhere to Five Percenters teachings.

Hip Hop is not only a music genre, moreover it is also a socio-political movement that has visions, revolutions, attacks on political corruption, injustices and excessive law enforcement, to drawing attention to ferocious gang wars and depressing poverty though an evocative and visceral artform. There are musicians younger than Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc, who have also learned through such teachings, including A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, Jay Z, Mos Def, and members of the Wu Tang Clan.

Kool Herc | Wikipedia

Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force –Renegades of Funk

Controversial Statement

Perhaps some Muslims may question notions such as the concept of God in human form. If a black man is referred to as God, why do famines exist in Africa? Why do wars still occur? How did a man create a universe that is seemingly beyond human capabilities? Of course, the legacy of Fard Muhammad or Elijah is commendable, but some might say that this Islamic sect outdares Islamic orthodox teachings and beliefs. In Islamic orthodoxy, depicting God in human form is considered taboo and infidelious.

Al- Ikhlas (Al-Quran)

Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,

Allah, the Eternal Refuge.

He neither begets nor is born,

Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Interestingly, God incarnating in human form is not a new concept in Islamic history. There was a prolific poet who conveyed his perception of God’s appearance in human from through poetry. The poet was Jalaluddin Rumi, a Persian Sufi and role model, whose poems have continued to inspire academics, artists and Muslims alike. If we delve deeper into his masterpiece “The Body is Like Mary” and try to ascertain its relevance to the notions of the Nation of Islam and Five percenters Nation beliefs, to me, we can find an imagery of God’s existence and nature in an infinite number of places or objects, as found in cells, atoms, frequencies, energies, solar systems, galaxies, and human flesh.

It is very sensitive to talk about different interpretations of religious teachings; especially in Islam, as a successor of Abraham’s religion that is bound by conventionally rigid rules and norms. On the other hand, however, Islam should be diverse, as it encompasses multiple races, cultures, histories, and interpretations. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the context and circumstances of the Nation of Islam and its offshoots for the sake of diversity. In my humble opinion, openness is needed to provide reunification within the Islamic sphere. Whether it is right or wrong, we as ordinary human beings should not justify or judge, as that should be decided solely by the supreme God. Praise merciful God!

The Body is Like Mary

The body is like Mary, and each of us has a Jesus inside.

Who is not in labour, holy labour? Every creature is.

See the value of true art, when the earth or a soul is in

the mood to create beauty;

for the witness might then for a moment know, beyond

any doubt, God is really there within,

so innocently drawing life from us with Her umbilical

universe – infinite existence …

though also needing to be born. Yes, God also needs

to be born!

Birth from a hand’s loving touch. Birth from a song,

from a dance, breathing life into this world.

The body is like Mary, and each of us, each of us has

a Christ within.

(Jalaluddin Rumi)

 

(EU/JN/BB)

References:

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5614846

https://thesource.com/2014/02/26/god-and-hip-hop-the-truth-is-now-nation-or-end-pt-2/

https://www.bustle.com/p/what-rappers-are-in-five-percent-nation-besides-wu-tang-clan-of-mics-men-explains-its-influence-on-hip-hop-17856792

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nation-of-Islam

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/muslim-population-by-state

https://www.pewforum.org/2016/02/03/republicans-prefer-blunt-talk-about-islamic-extremism-democrats-favor-caution/#views-of-discrimination-against-muslims-in-the-u-s

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9bn7ae/remembering-master-fard-muhammad

How Language Cannot Stand Alone – Enter the Loanword

By Bramantyo Indirawan

If you can read this, you probably have some sort of an understanding of the English language. This planet has a population of 7.7 billion inhabitants, with an estimated 1.5 billion or 20% who speak English to various extents. These people fall under two categories; those who speak it as a first language (around 379 million people), and the remainder who speak it as a second language. English is part of the Indo-European group of languages, with roots from Germanic, Latin and Ancient Greek linguistic groups. The modern English adopt and use words from other languages, from their “parental” Western heritage so to speak, and even from Eastern parts of the world. In a sense, the English use loanwords from other languages.

Words Travel from Language to Language

What is a loanword? Well, just like the name, a loanword loans or borrows words from other languages. But unlike the term loaning, the word that was loaned or borrowed from another language will not be returned since it becomes part of the language it was loaned to. As Oxfordbibliographies.com put it, when two languages come into contact, words are mutually exchanged. Lexical borrowings, or loanwords, are by far the most commonly attested language contact phenomena. Loanwords are studied and researched from various perspectives. This relates to subfields of linguistics such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, and semantics, as well as sociolinguistic and historical linguistics.

As we all know, languages across the world loan English words into their own. Trainer in German means “coach,” le parking in French means “car park,” pilot in Indonesian is pilot in English etc. The English language also loaned many words from other languages, such as “anonymous,” meaning someone or something without a name, is a loanword from the Greek anōnumos (ᾰ̓νώνῠμος). Another example is “zeitgeist,” which can be defined as the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era. The word was directly loaned from the German, which directly translates as “spirit of the time,” although the German geist does not mean “ghost” or “spirit,” but lies somewhere in between, of which there is no alternative word in English, hence why they loaned the word to compensate for this lack of terminology.

The English word “loanword” itself is a loanword. Taken from the German lehnwort that translates as, taking a word or words from a foreign language and adapting its pronunciation, spelling, and inflection to the language that was adopted. This is why loanwords are not actually loaning or borrowing words other languages, but rather taking them and adapting them to meet the requirements of their linguistic rules.

Words define many subjects and objects that can relate to many things such as behavior and expression, invention, discovery, natural resource and technology. The English word for an expedition to seek animals in its natural habitat is “safari”, originated from the Arabic word safar that translates to journey. Karaoke comes from the Japanese word of the same name, literally meaning “empty orchestra”.

Interlocal and International Loanwords of Indonesia

Indonesia has its own Bahasa language that has also contributed to the English language through loanwords. One such example is amok, that can mean a violently raging, wild, or uncontrolled manner, as in “running amok”. Flora and fauna are two exceptionally common Indonesian words that are used in English, banteng from the Indonesian cattle, the komodo lizard, climbing palms named rattan come from the word rotan, and rice fields, or paddy fields, come from the word padi. Cultural manifestations from Indonesia are also used as loanwords in the English language. Examples are batik, a technique for decorating cloth, koteka or the penis sheath from Papua, rendang that is a renowned dish from Minangkabau, and the gamelan musical ensemble.

Indonesia itself use loanwords from other languages just like English does, both imported overseas and across oceans, and even from within their own country through local languages. With roots in the Malay language that is also shared with Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia also use languages from local ethnicities and cultures such as Java and Minangkabau. Examples are ayomi from Java that means “to protect” and bantah that can mean “denial” in Minangkabau.

From the local to the international, why and how does the Indonesian language “loan” words from outside their country?

Trade and religion also played a role in Indonesia’s loanword process. Arabic languages came and eventually loaned the Indonesian language some words through increased trade and the spread of Islam. Nowadays, the Arabic language is used in daily life through to academic writing in Indonesia. Examples of loanwords are kabar, or “news” as in  Arabic al’akhbar, and abadi, that can mean “eternal” from the Arabic ‘abadia.

Another way for a language to take words from other languages is through invention and innovation as previously mentioned. For instance, the terminology for methods, systems and devices used in scientific practices usually correspond to similar etymological roots. The English language and American-English provided new words to other languages in the 20th century through inventions and technological inventions that many English-speaking countries developed. From music genres such as jazz, sports such as baseball, to electronic and digital inventions such as internet, modems, emails, and blogs. Some inventions used an adaptation of old languages such as Latin, such as monitor from monere and camera (read as kamera in Indonesian) from camera obscura meaning “dark chamber.”

Ultimately, all languages use loanwords from other languages. A cultural transaction was and is still made through languages. Even if we only speak one language, that language itself represents different cultures through loanwords that were taken from other languages. We can find diversity in the things that we use each day and the languages we speak.

Whether we like it or not, we are indeed multicultural beings that stand together in this world we coinhabit through loanwords. If languages cannot stand alone, this should make us realize that humanity cannot stand alone either.

 

Source: Babbel.com, Britannica.com, Slate.com, Merriam-webster.com, Oxfordbibilographics,com, Thoughtco.com

(BI/JN)

Animal “Rights” or Human Obligation

by Pradiva Sawarno

Animal “rights” has been a debatable issue for decades. It covers wide areas of animal-human relationship: hunting, animal experimentation, over-fishing, humane slaughtering, factory farming, pets, to animals used for entertainment. Last year, the issue extended into the art world in an incident where The Guggenheim Museum was urged to pull down artworks that allegedly violated animal rights. Artists argued if Guggenheim should conform to the demand or keep the artworks in display. Guggenheim eventually did pull the artworks down due to pressure and threats of violence toward its staff, visitors, and participating artists.

Along with these arguments, one question comes to mind; what exactly is animal “rights”? To start with, the rights of animals should not include domesticated animals (including pets).  To set the groundwork for this discussion, one must think of the whole ecosystem because this is what actually at stake when humans do not contribute to the well-being of (wild) animals.

But, is there such a thing as (wild) animal rights? Do animals have (or demand) rights, as humans do?

Speciesism

While the concern of animal suffering is not a new idea – many ancient religious scriptures observe vegetarian diet for ethical reasons – animal rights activism in the West have only started in early 19th century. In the modern world, the movement gained traction in 1975 when philosopher Peter Singer published a book titled ‘Animal Liberation’. Singer popularizes the term “speciesism” as comparable to racism or sexism; where it questions why can’t other species have rights just because they’re members of different species? It became the starting point of animal rights activism in the 20th century, paving ways for the establishment of Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Farm Animal Reform Movement, and so on.

One clear point here is that there is no such thing as animal “rights”; what must stand is human obligation. Humans have to do the work to defend animals. Even without the existence of animal rights, there are no justifications for humans to inflict pain on animals. Equipped with a more developed brain, humans have the capacity for critical thinking to establish their own rights. Animals on the other hand, live by the laws of nature. But with a more evolved brain, somehow almost all people have developed a sense of superiority or supremacy over other species, that human is special. When in fact, humans are merely a small part of nature that must, in the words of Sacred Bridge Foundation, co-habitate with other living beings (including vegetation).

Why don’t vegetation have “rights” while animals do?

Once equipped with the confidence in superiority over Earth, humans have continuously disturbed the nature’s order while the ecosystem should not have been interfered in the first place. One example of human intervention in nature is domestication. Its sole purpose is to fulfill human basic need efficiently through the available technology, with a secondary (or tertiary even) hope that it would prevent further abuse of wild life. The quantity has gone massive and required an enormous land area as the technology advances. When it started thousands of years ago, domestication already began to strip wild animals of their natural instincts and put them at the mercy of humans, animals’ new “pack leader”. Meanwhile, humans feel that they have given the animals shelter and protection. It was said earlier that the groundwork to discuss animal rights should not include pets and domesticated animals.

Why? Well, it shouldn’t even be questioned whether pets and livestock animals deserve better, because their “right” as (wild) animals have already been violated when they were domesticated thousands of years ago. So, by default, they should be treated well for their sacrifice.

Wildlife is a Part of Ecosystem

Having intentionally disrupted the ecosystem, everything humans do to nature has its consequences. This is where the Butterfly Effect – the term that was coined by Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist – takes place. It was first used as a concept for meteorology, where it is impossible to accurately predict a large system such as weather because there are too many unknown variables to account for. The name itself comes from the suggestion that the subtle flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one place could affect the weather condition somewhere in a different place. However, this concept applies beyond weather. This describes how the smallest change even only a fraction to a condition can affect large and complex systems.

People living in big cities might not feel that they’re directly impacted by the change in environment due to their ignorance toward nature. Most people, particularly those who live in urban areas, do not even seem to care so long as they can carry on with their daily lives. There are many things that serve as evidences indicating environmental changes of their surroundings. Extreme weather, intensify wildfires, heavy rain, and flood are a few examples that often cost lives. On the other side, indigenous people living in the wild are most likely to be affected by the changes. People living in the forest depend on sounds and conditions of their surroundings for cues to go about their daily lives. They listen to sounds ranging from insects to bigger predators for their survival; to hunt for food, to read animal behaviors looking for changes in the seasons, and to avoid being preyed upon. Because in the wild, the hunter can become the hunted. While Indigenous people rely on the nature to live, people in big cities may not even  aware of or care when a bulbul greets them every morning outside the window.

Another impact of nature exploitation is excess waste. In a pure ecosystem, nothing is wasted. Everything produced by plants or animals will eventually return to nature. Plants are consumed by omnivores, smaller animals are eaten by predators, carcasses are eaten by scavengers, even droppings are consumed and serve as fertilizers, and the cycle goes on. With excess waste piling up in the environment, nature is left helpless, creating various complications that eventually affect many traditions forged long before mankind began to try to ‘modify’ nature.

One example of inter-dependency of human and animals when it comes to zero waste is the relationship between vultures and the Parsi community in Mumbai, India. This community traditionally exposed the deceased to the vultures in the Dakhmas or ‘Towers of Silence’. It follows a 3,000 year old tradition from the Zoroastrianism of disposing of the dead by exposing it to scavenger birds. However, approximately 97-99 percent vultures have disappeared in the last few decades. Today, the Parsis are desperate to figure out how to continue their 3,000-year old ritual and respectfully take care of their dearly departed in a world with no vultures.

Just like the Parsis, many traditions have a long history of relationship with animals as part of their rituals and sacredness – either wild or domesticated ones.

From Butterfly Effect to excessive waste mentioned above indicate that wild animals existence are very much impact our life.

“Who” is the Animal?

Nature has its way of “responding” to things. Anything that happens within the order of nature will be ‘recycled’ in its own way to sustain its sound ecosystem; anything outside of the order will not be recognized. Today’s climate change is one of the ways the nature responds to unnatural and imposing changes. Like it or not, we are caught in the process because we are the ones making this disturbing change. Humans have created such massive disturbance toward nature’s order, and this is nature’s way of reacting. Inhabitants of the Earth are intrinsic parts of the order of nature, so it must be in compliance with the ultimate common system in which all parts “created” and maintained over millions of years. In this system, no single part functions as the commander in chief as in the military. So, what will happen if we keep dictating nature even after knowing that no single part can ever be the ”pack leader” in the system?

When we talk about wild animals as a part of nature, human’s emotion doesn’t need to play its part, but logic does. Without them, we die – plain and simple. It is our obligation to sustain everything operates within the order. “Animal Rights” on the other hand is just a label (slogan), because it’s impossible for them to fight for their rights. The terms “rights” are human invention only for humanity. Why? Because for us, life matters. And if life matters, do we really think our species would survive on our own? And if we cannot respond to this question, is it still relevant to call our species “Homo Sapiens”?

 

(PS/BP/RR)

In the Search for Renaissance Men

by Bramantyo Indirawan

Renaissance, derived from the French word that means ‘rebirth’, was an age of ideas and culture taking place in Europe between the 14th and 17th century. According to Renaissance and Reformation (2007), it was an age of artistic splendor, a turmoil on humanism and religion, the birth of new knowledges and paradigms, and an age of war that forge modernity.

This age became a bridge between the middle ages and the enlightenment. From the decay left out by the collapse of Roman Empire since 5th century, a process through hardship in Europe called Renaissance eventually advances into the age of enlightenment in 18th century, illuminating the dark ages with science, culture, and even politics—paving the way for the modern world.

When the west was going through its “dark” time, the east, or Islam in particular, were enjoying its golden age (8th-13 century) where education and culture were flourishing. In the Iberian peninsula intellectuals gathered to learn and understand more about the world. This spirit was aligned with the renaissance concept and we can argue that the golden age of Islam had inspired it. According to Sacred Bridge Foundation (SBF), both ages has the triangulation of arts, spirituality, and science—united and achieved greatness.

Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba (Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral); one of the inter-faith manifestations from Islamic Caliphate period in Cordoba, Spain. | Source: Sacred Bridge Foundation

The term ‘renaissance man’ is founded on the basis of an age where great minds challenge the world they live in. It simply indicate a person that has many abilities or at the very least embrace every knowledge and try to develop greatness in multiple areas. Astronomy, architecture, arts, philosophy, and geometry can be seen as the core knowledge that make someone a renaissance man. Britannica.com wrote that it was Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) from Italy who coined the term. Uomo universale, universal man, or renaissance man means that “a man can do all things if he will,” said Alberti, asserting that man as the center of universe must push their capability to the fullest.

Leon Battista Alberti (left), Leonardo da Vinci (right) | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Italy’s Leonardo da Vinci  is the perfect example of a renaissance man. Born on 15 April 1452, Da Vinci was a polymath who painted The Last Supper and Monalisa, tackled anatomy by creating the Vitruvian Man, and dwell on other areas such as mathematics, engineering, and astronomy. Throughout this period, there are others who has this multiple expertise, such as Michelangelo Buonarroti who was an architect, a sculptor, painter, and writer, Galileo who put interest in multiple areas such as astronomy, mathematics, physics and philosophy, Alberti was an architect, artist, and priest. From the east we have Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar from Mughal empire outside of Europe whom can be easily considered as a renaissance man from having so many expertise: an architect, an artist, a carpenter, and a writer.

Before the term exist, renaissance men have been around the world for long time. A polymath like Aristotle (384–322 BC) was an expert in many subject areas such as physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, and art. In the east there are Imhotep (2650–2600 BC) from Egypt and Zhang Heng  (AD 78–139) from China who are both considered as personas with multiple abilities.

Head statue of Imhotep (left), A stamp of Zhang Heng issued by China Post in 1955 (right) | Source: Probaway.com and Wikimedia Commons

When age of enlightenment finally arrived, great minds still challenged and made breakthroughs that eventually shaped the future—our present. Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin are primary examples of renaissance men or polymaths in this era.

Take Albert Einstein for example, can the scientist be called as a modern renaissance man? | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Flash forward to the modern world, do we still have renaissance men who learn multiple knowledges? Having values such as those polymaths of the past by being persistent, critical, and keep on challenging all that goes around them for the betterment and further advancement of the world.

If the notion that people master only one subject to fully understand and be the best in that area, then we are ignoring the fact that all subjects are interrelated. Once one masters a subject, he or she will see that it is connected to other areas of knowledge. We must be willing to explore it, just like a renaissance man would.

Another problem arises when people try to do a lot of things without  bothering to understand the basic principles. For instance, a self-proclaimed painter who can sculpt and write doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is a renaissance man. The same goes for other subjects such as physics and architecture.

Renaissance was about process, being great at multiple subjects seems the very least. The modern men must thrive throughout their own time, pushing boundaries and their own limit to create or try hard at creating something more advance—making a betterment for the people and the world.

The question is, does modern renaissance man exist? Do we really need to understand about the world we live in today as a renaissance man would do? Share your thoughts about who you would consider as modern renaissance men in the comment page below.

 

(BI/BP/RR)

Truth and Power: Art from the Brexit Era – through the Eyes of Brendan Pickett

Foreword from Listen To The World

Brexit has been one of the foremost issues in today’s political and economic climate. Large numbers of us often forget that economics, along with politics, are a few “products” of culture. Therefore, they should not be treated as a singular entity, but as an integral part that interconnects with other variables; much like what Brendan realised in his latest exhibition (which is discussed in further detail further on). Furthermore, LTTW also conducted an interview with Brendan to discuss in further detail his views on current socio-political climates, arts, technology, patterns of thinking and behaviour, science and spirituality, etc.

Humans define and seek Truth based upon their own cultural terms (norms, ideology, philosophy, science, etc) and this is also the case with Power. As part of being human, we never stop our search for meanings of life, and finding truth is certainly a fundamental aspect of this. As we see the world today become increasingly polarized, conflicts still exist today due to our lack of understanding in the diversity of Truths as we see them.

Serrano Sianturi; one of Sacred Bridge’s founders kept reminding us that “Human is still, by nature, a territorial being; when the territory is felt threatened, response is taken in many different and sometimes irrational ways. The territory itself is not just physical, but also in abstract forms like science, economy, technology, ideology, etc. In these abstract territories, domination and dependency “co-exist”; the unproportional weight between these two has been the fundamental reason behind the tensions, conflicts and wars among us.”

The great political divide between globalist and nationalist has become the central theme of global politics today. All humans still share important experiences, values, and interests with no individual or race inherently superior to others. Organising intercultural dialog in order to find a collective concern and taking the necessary actions to realise these are more practical and rational solutions than conflict and war.

Some of us see diversity as a threat because of the fundamental human instincts; preference to dominate when one feels threatened rather than to use differences as a way to enrich other’s and the world around us. History teaches us that establishing mutual understanding and respect are two fundamental steps to move beyond “Self-Interest” and “Culture Wars”. The Arts have been powerful vehicles that have successfully broken barriers of uncommon grounds amongst us, which have allowed humans to live in peace and harmony.

Truth and Power reminds us not only about breaking the barriers but also about empowering the diminishing role of arts in society and its relevancy to respond to current issues (social, economic, political). Brendan’s exhibition is certainly a rare platform today that can perhaps give us clues and perspectives into finding solutions to our problems; not only for the future of the United Kingdom but also for the global world. The exhibition took place at the Ringcross community centre in The London borough of Islington.


Truth and Power: Art from the Brexit Era – through the Eyes of Brendan Pickett

By Jason Noghani

Brendan Pickett and I went to a Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Tate modern in 2017, and although we were initially impressed by some of his work (particularly the abstract landscapes realised through his extensive use of photographic techniques), the most recent work of his did not leave the most positive impact on us. In the immediate aftermath of Britain’s EU referendum vote in 2016, Tillmans response was an evidently pro-remain propagandist series of works, making his feelings clear in the work he created. Although I myself voted remain and have considerable apprehension about leaving the EU, I found Tillmans work antithetical to the true function of art. No two people ever experience anything alike, and this is particularly the case with abstract art, of which every artist should take heed of at the onset of a creation. This openness to interpretation is subsequently thought provoking, teaching us to think independently in the process, and the various interpretations of any work of art underlie the potential art has to unite people. Politics on the other hand is inevitably divisive, which emphasises the important role art plays in overcoming these differences, something of which Tillmans failed to observe in his 2017 exhibition, and something of which was the driving force behind Brendan’s magnificently exuberant exhibition in London this month, aptly titled Truth and Power: Art from the Brexit Era.

Brendan is one of the most brilliant and vibrant minds I have met, and during the years of our friendship, we have regularly had stimulating and inspiring conversations exploring a variety of subjects, particularly concerning the sociocultural and political upheavals of our time, and how to respond accordingly as artists. Deeply philosophical by nature, Brendan’s inquisitive and rigorous approach to his work leaves no stone unturned, as he examines the cause and effect behind every decision he makes, and how they bear significance to the bigger picture. This rationalistic and unbiased approach qualifies Brendan as a modern-day classical liberal, enabling him to observe world affairs from a stoic perspective, whilst simultaneously upholding the noble values that made the UK the progressive and visionary country it became over the past few centuries.

Ruminations on Power and Anti-Power

Truth and Power catalogue cover

True to his time, Brendan’s art is a transfusion of old and new, and addresses the recent backlash against post-modernist thinking – namely, how we can continue to create art of intrinsic meaning and value without succumbing to the nihilistic tendencies that we have somehow somnambulated into. The result is an art that could not exist without the various innovations of the 20th century, yet has the depth and consideration that earlier art is still revered for. Brendan personally advocates the notion that “all art is collage,” something of which is perhaps unavoidable at a time where we seemingly “know everything,” although Brendan’s take on this approach shows that innovative and forward-thinking results can be achieved if one is still daring in their approach. The majority of the paintings in this exhibition were inspired by Cubism, tinged with cartoonish elements (Brendan is also a brilliant illustrator and writer of comic books), and a richly psychedelic colour palette that propels the mainly gritty subject matter into transcendent realms of experience – perhaps the glimmer of hope in these times of uncertainty!

The work touches on potentially controversial subject matter, although this is more a reflection of how hysterical political correctness has become rather than the issues Brendan addresses. The paintings were curated into five groups which were interrelated with one another, each containing bold distinguishable qualities that captivated the attendees and drew their attention to particular points of focus. The first group of paintings, simply called Brexit, observed one of the most controversial political issues of our time from an evocatively universal perspective, which in itself renders its necessity for making this work known to the wider public (particularly in Britain!). In Fear of Being Called Racist and Working Class Man Walks Home, issues concerning misrepresentation and stigmatisation of the working class are addressed, reflecting the persecution mania and hardships many typically associated “leave” voters have had to contend with, despite only acting with their best intentions at heart. Satan Loves Politics and One of Two Satanic Choices Does Not a Democracy Make reflect the darkness at the heart of the political sphere, which perhaps could be summarised as the inevitable division that arises as a consequence of having to decide between two equally bad choices – something frequently found in modern day politics! The latter painting also pays homage to The Matrix as Satan is seen holding a blue pill and a red pill in each hand; a popular recurring theme in today’s online culture of “woke” folk being “red-pilled” and all that. It should be noted that these were the only two paintings on display that did not follow a Cubist format, although the anomalous quality Luciferian beings possess made these works perfectly compliment the others, and made them stand out – Satan’s glaring snarl could certainly be felt whenever he caught our eye!

“Soldier Waves Goodbye” | Painting by Brendan Pickett

The second group of paintings are of Conceptual Portraits, all conceived within the Cubist framework, which include portraits of controversial figures such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and provocative right-leaning online philosopher Stefan Molyneux. Soldier Waves Goodbye consolidates the political influence of this particular group, conceived from the contrasting perspective of those on the receiving end of today’s politically instigated decisions, and the poignancy of this particular painting illustrates the grief and despair many soldiers have to endure as a result of these disastrous decisions. This latter painting and Self Portrait of Depression serve as a link to the third group: Male Empowerment. The works in Male Empowerment explore the currently controversial theme of masculinity in today’s world; namely, the perceived notions of “toxic masculinity” in climates of extreme gynocentricism, the plights of despair and depression that afflict many young men today, and the assertion of the importance of a resurgence of the divine masculine archetype that would serve to empower young men who currently feel that odds are stacked against them. The themes in this group explore masculinity from concrete (Liberal Guilt and Male Loneliness) to symbolic perspectives (the male archetype depicted in shapes and representations such as Atlas and Janus), and the contrasting stances intently express the current plight of masculinity with fervent conviction. The content in this group serves as a link to the fourth group: Divine Truth & Power.

Divine Truth & Power takes the exhibition into the esoteric and philosophical realms of thought, which clarifies the rigorous breadth of the explorations undertaken by Brendan. A stunningly elegant Dionysus depicts the Greek God through the Cubist lens whilst still retaining the qualities of Ancient Greek design and architecture, and this painting is framed alongside two paintings of the Venus archetype. These three paintings are perhaps the most outwardly spiritual of the exhibition, given the Deistic themes and elusive qualities apparent in them, and this sense of freedom and aspiration can be discerned in the vibrantly abstract qualities of these works; each imbued with a rich array of colours and elegant attention to details, subsequently demonstrating a commanding prowess and craftsmanship.

The final group consisted of some of the most recent work of Brendan’s, and was titled Will to Power after Friedrich Nietzsche. This group contained what I feel was the masterpiece of the exhibition, a vast montage of contrasting themes and images called Allegory of Power. Brendan’s Allegory can be interpreted in innumerable ways; much like everything else on display, and the bold and confrontational infusion of subject matter is impossible not to be captivated by. Incorporations of images such as the England flag could stir rage in one and feelings of hope and aspiration in another, and the considerate assimilation of such criteria addresses the importance of provoking uncomfortable questions through art in our time. The two most recent works were Gaslighting and The Process of Epistemology, which were completed over the past year, and are testament to the continual evolution and progress of Brendan’s art. Gaslighting develops the function of Janus, in this instance representing the mass confusion induced through the uncertainty of information reliability in the age of “fake news,” and The Process of Epistemology is a brooding somewhat introspective work, quite unlike anything else at the exhibition, and one which I feel looks towards the future; something of which was realised through a renewed approach to Cubist practices after a short hiatus. Coupled with the paintings in this group is a flow-chart called Diagram of Power, which overviews the intricate thought processes that went into this extensive project. When one takes the time to examine the content of this diagram, the brilliant mind behind the work can be seen clearly, and something of which should not be hidden given the riches that were on display!

“Allegory of Power” | Painting by Brendan Pickett

The multitalented Brendan not only exhibited his paintings to the public, he also recited excerpts from his latest novel Clickbait Rats, accompanying the recitations on the piano. Clickbait Rats is a tongue-in-cheek dystopian reflection of our time, exaggerating the behaviours commonly associated with tendencies attributed to the decline of Western values. The vernacular of the text evokes qualities seen in the work of William Burroughs, whilst the jazz-infused harmonies on the piano drew inspiration from the readings of Jack Kerouac, also providing a light relief from the sardonic nature of the text, and giving the performance a tinge of black comedy – perhaps a reflection of how ridiculous our modern-day malaise actually is in the grander scheme of things! It is also interesting to note that Brendan’s approach to writing reflects his approach to art in that his treatment of Beat-inspired literature in Clickbait Rats is examined with equal authenticity to his use of Cubism in the exhibition.

The audience who attended the final night of the exhibition were an intimate gathering of mainly close friends and family, all of whom are distinctly unique individuals in their own right (Brendan’s open-mindedness and fascinating personality have drawn a wide variety of people within his circle) and all of whom bonded through the shared experience of this wonderful event. This reinforced the unifying power that true art possesses; that shared experiences overwhelmingly overcome the petty differences we endure in daily life. I had the honour of sharing this creative journey with Brendan over the past few years, as he continuously shared his thoughts and creative process with me, and therefore I was fully aware of what I was to experience at the exhibition, although seeing these works on display for the first time has had a lasting impact since. To conclude, this is art that needs wider exposure due to its relevance, beauty and imagination, and I truly hope that Brendan receives the recognition he deserves in the foreseeable future! This really is art of our time – a feast for the eyes and mind!

Click here to purchase the exhibition catalogue.