Thursday, June 30, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 4 - Shi'ism and the Safavids

  • "The great schisms of the Christian church, between East and Wast, and later between Catholic and Protestant, came centuries after the time of Christ. But the great schism in Islam that still divides Muslims today, between Sunni and Shi'a, originated in the earliest days of the faith....Comparisons with the Christian schisms do not really work." - 125
  • 656 AD: Ali becomes the fourth caliph; "Shi'a Muslims believe that Mohammad nominated Ali as his successor" - 126
  • "The Shi'a saw themselves as the underdogs, the dispossessed....A deep inclination to sympathy and compassion for the oppressed -- and a tendency to see them as naturally more righteous than the rich and powerful -- has persisted in popular Shi'ism right through to the present day....Shi'a Muslims saw themselves as a more or less persecuted minority within states [Umayyad and Abassid] run by and for Sunni Muslims." -127
  • "Some Sufi shaykhs were learned hermits, wedded to poverty and contemplation. But others were less contemplative and more proselytizing, more ghuluww (extreme), more inclined to the realization of divine purposes in the world through worldly acts, and more ambivalent about violence." - 131
  • 1501 AD: "Esma'il and his Qezelbash ['red-headed', referring to their red hats] followers conquered Tabriz (the old Seljuk capital)" and Esma'il declares himself shah of the Safavids and institutes Twelver Shi'ism as the Safavid religion - 131-2
  • "The new army [under Abbas the Great] was largely organized around the introduction...of gunpowder weapons, including up-to-date cannon and a corps of musketeers. Many features of it echoed Ottoman practice -- the musketeers were designed to be the equals of the redoubtable Ottoman janissaries." - 135
  • 1616 AD: English East India Company acquires the right to trade in Persia - 135
  • 1639 AD: Treaty of Zohab "fixed the Ottoman/Persian boundary in its present-day position between Iran and Iraq" - 141
  • "As Shah Soleiman's reign drew to a close, the Safavid regime looked strong but had been seriously weakened. Its monuments looked splendid, but the intellectual world of Persia, once distinguished for its tolerance and vision, was now led by narrower, smaller minds." - 144

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 3 - Islam and Invasions: The Arabs, Turks, and Mongols -- The Iranian Reconquest of Islam, the Sufis, and the Poets

  • "Mohammad rejected the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus....Early on, Mohammad had given Jerusalem as the direction of prayer and had made other provisions that apparently conciliated Judaism." - 70
  • 637 AD: "Muslim armies moved east against the Sassanid Empire" - 72
  • 661 AD: beginning of Umayyad dynasty, "named of the leading families of Mecca that Mohammad had fought before Mecca's sumission to Islam." - 76
  • "The Umayyads discriminated strongly in favor of Arabs in the running of the empire, but were criticized among the Arabs for becoming too worldly and making too many compromises....part of the eternal tension in Islam between piety and political authority." - 76
  • "Eventually the attachment to the family of the Prophet -- to Ali and his descendants -- evolved a theology of its own and a firm belief that the descendants of Ali were the only legitimate authority in Islam, becoming what we now call Shi'ism." - 77
  • late 740s AD: Abu Muslim, a Persian convert, begins a revolt against Umayyad rule in Khorasan "in the name of the Prophet's family, thereby concealing the movement's final purpose and ensuring a wide appeal." - 77
  • 750 AD: Abu'l Abbas is declared the new caliph in Kufa by Abu Muslim and others and later has Abu Muslim killed - 77
  • Capitals: Damascus, Umayyad; Baghdad, Abbasid - 78
  • "Boosted by the creativity of the Persians the Abbasid regime set a standard and was looked back on later as a golden age....The Abbasids endeavored to evade the tensions between piety and government to cement their support among all Muslims by abandoning the Umayyad principle of Arab supremacy and by establishing a principle of equality between all Muslims. This same inclusive spirit extended even to taking Christians, Jews, and descendants of Ali into the government -- provided they proved loyal to the regime." - 80
  • "From the very beginning, the grand theme of Persian poetry is love. But it is a whole teeming continent of love -- sexual love, divine love, homoerotic love, unrequited love, hopeless love, and hopeful love." - 85
  • "The Shahnameh has had a significance in Persian culture comparable to that of Shakespeare in English or the Lutheran Bible in has been a central text in education and in many homes, second only to the Qor'an and the great fourteenth-century poet Hafez." - 87
  • Omar Kayyam "was probably the first to demonstrate the theory that the nightly progression of the constellations through the sky was due to the earth spinning around the axis." - 91
  • 1258 AD: "the Mongols took Baghdad. They killed the last Abbasid caliph by wrapping him in a carpet and trampling him to death with horses" - 104
  • "Within a couple generations Persian officials were as firmly in place at the court of the Il-Khans as they had been with the Seljuks, the Ghaznavids, and earlier dynasties. The Mongols initially retained their paganism, but in 1295 their Buddhist ruler converted to Islam along with his army." - 104
  • "At the time that western province [of Hamadan] was known as Iraq-e Ajam -- the Iraq of the Ajam, the non-Arabs -- in other words, the Persians." - 107
  • "After about 1300...the Mongol Il-Khans, becoming Islamized and Persianized, reversed their extractive, destructive, slash-and-burn style of rule." - 117
  • beginning in 1380 AD, "Timur conquered in the name of orthodox Sunni Islam, but this in no way moderated his conduct of war. After taking Persia and defeating the Mongols of the Golden Horde in the steppe lands around Moscow, he moved into India and took Delhi. Then he turned west again, where he conquered Baghdad..., defeated the Ottoman sultan, captured him, and returned to Samarkand." - 118

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 2 - The Iranian Revival: Parthians and Sassanids

  • "in the reign of the Arsacid Mithradates I (171 -138 BC) the Parthians renewed their expansion, taking Sistan, Elam, and Media. Then they captured Babylon in 142 BC and, one year later, Seleuceia itself. In the decades that followed, the Parthians were attacked by the Sakae in the east and by the Seleucids in the west." - 33
  • "Mithradates [II, the Great] had diplomatic contacts with both the Chinese Han emperor Wu Ti and with the Roman republic under the dictator Sulla." - 33
  • "the rise of the Parthians in the east was helped by the prolonged struggle between the Maccabean Jews and the Seleucids in Palestine." - 34
  • "While the hostile Parthians controlled the central part of the route to China, wealthy Romans were dismayed to see much of the gold they paid to have their wives and daughters clothes in expensive silks going to their most redoubtable enemies." - 38
  • "Something else taken west by the Roman soldiers from their encounters in the east was a new religion -- Mithraism....Mithras always remained primarily a god of soldiers...and was an important bonding element in the lives of military men....Although Mithras was associated with the sun (sol invictus -- the Invincible Sun), Mithraism seems to have taken on some of the ritualized cult character of Western paganism, losing most of the ethical content of Iranian Mazdaism and becoming a kind of secret society a little like Freemasons." - 41
  • "The wars and the disputed provinces had taken on a totemic value -- they had become a part of the apparatus by which the Persian shahs and Roman emperors alike justified their rule....Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Syria had become an unfortunate playground for princes." - 46
  • "Ardashir and Shapur [the first Sassanid rulers] made changes in government that may have paralleled the beginnings of some deeper change in society. Government became more centralized, the bureaucracy expanded" - 47
  • "Another phenomenon that emerged in the reign of Shapur was a new religion -- Manichaeism, named after its originator, the prophet Mani." - 49
  • "Manichaeism was based on the idea of a queasy, dystopic creation in which the good -- the light -- had been overwhelmed and dominated by evil -- the demonic -- which was itself identified with matter. Through copulation and reproduction (inherently sinful), evil had imprisoned light in matter and had established the dominance of evil on earth....the only real hope was the eventual liberation of the spirit in death." - 50
  • "As pursued later by the Western Christian church in medieval Europe, the full grim panoply of Manichaean / Augustinian formulae emerged to blight millions of lives... -- the distaste for the human body, the disgust for and guilt about sexuality, the misogyny, the determinism..., the obsessive idealization of the spirit, the disdain for the material -- all distant indeed from the original teachings of Jesus." - 52
  • "we should remember that Manichaeism was condemned by the Mazdaean Magi as a heresy at an early stage, and that it is more correct to see it as a distortion of Iranian thinking -- or indeed as an outgrowth of Christian gnosticism dressed in Mazdaean trappings" - 53
  • "Shortly before Shapur II became shah [in 310 AD], Armenia turned Christian, at least officially." - 55
  • "The reign of Khosraw [Anushirvan], for its intellectual achievements, for its exemplification of the Sassanid idea of kingship, was the pinnacle of Sassanid rule. In later centuries it became almost the Platonic form of what monarchy should be" - 62-3

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 1 - Origins: Zoroaster, the Achaemenids, and the Greeks

  • the Persian language "has no structural relationship with Arabic or the other Semitic languages of the ancient Middle East (though it took in many Arab words after the Arab conquest)." - 2
  • "Before and during the period of the Iranian migrations [from the Russian steppe], an empire -- the empire of Elam -- flourished in the area that later became the provinces of Khuzestan and Fars, based in the cities of Susa and Anshan." - 2
  • 700 BC: "the Medes -- with the help of Scythian tribes -- had established an independent state, which later grew to become the first Iranian Empire....At its height the Median Empire stretched from Asia Minor to the Hindu Kush, and south to the Persian Gulf, ruling the Persians as vassals as well as many other subject peoples." - 5
  • "At the center of Zoroaster's theology was the opposition between Ahura Mazda, the creator-god of truth and light, and Ahriman, the embodiment of lies, darkness, and evil. This dualism became a persistent theme in Iranian thought for centuries." - 7
  • 559 BC: Cyrus becomes king of Anshan, being a descendant of the royal house of Persia started by Achaemenes - 12
  • 549 BC: Cyrus leads a revolt against Astyages, the Median king, and captures the Median capital of Ecbatana; "Cyrus reversed the relationship between Media and Persia -- he crowned himself king of Persia, making Persia the center of the empire and Media the junior partner." - 12
  • "Cyrus and his successors permitted them to return home from exile and to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. For those acts they were accorded in the Jewish scriptures a unique status among gentile monarchs." - 14-5
  • "Tomb burial was anathema to later Zoroastrians, who held it to be sacrilege to pollute the earth with dead bodies. Instead they exposed the dead on so-called Towers of Silence, to be consumed by birds and animals." - 16
  • "This was an empire that always preferred to flow around and absorb powerful rivals, rather than to confront, batter into defeat, and force submission." - 21
  • Darius "maintained the related principle of devolved government. The provinces were ruled by satraps, governors who returned a tribute to the center but ruled as viceroys" - 21
  • 512 BC: Darius campaigns into Europe, conquering Thrace and Macedonia - 23
  • 490 BC: Battle of Marathon, Persians defeated by Athenian Greeks - 23
  • "The wars that continued between the Persians and the Greeks ended at least for a time with the peace of Callias in 449 BC, but thereafter the Persians supported Sparta against Athens in the terribly destructive Peloponnesian wars. These conflicts exhausted the older Greek city-states and prepared the way for the hegemony of Macedon." - 25
  • "For more than a century after Alexander [the Great]'s death, Persia was ruled by the descendants of Seleucus, one of Alexander's generals" - 30

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

  • "Redefining opportunities and responsibilities for millions of people in a society absent of mass formal employment is likely to be the single most pressing social issue of the coming century" - intro. xv
  • "We are entering a new phase in world history -- one in which fewer and fewer workers will be needed to produce the goods and services for the global population." - intro. xvi
  • "By directly eliminating human labor from the production process and by creating a reserve army of unemployed workers whose wages could be bid down lower and lower, the capitalists were inadvertently digging their own grave, as there would be fewer and fewer consumers with sufficient purchasing power to buy their products." - 17
  • "As productivity soared in the 1920s and a growing number of workers were handed pink slips, sales dropped off dramatically....The business community hoped that by convincing those still working to buy more and save less, they could empty their warehouses and shelves and keep the American economy going. Their crusade to turn American workers into 'mass' consumers became known as the gospel of consumption." - 18
  • "The metamorphosis of consumption from vice to virtue is one of the most important yet least examined phenomena of the twentieth century." - 19
  • "The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction." - 20, Charles Kettering of General Motors
  • "Let us remember that the automatic the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor." - 78, Norbert Weiner
  • "The [unions] failed to come to grips with the central dynamic of the automation revolution -- management's single-minded determination to replace workers with machines wherever possible, and, by so doing, reduce labor costs, increase control over production, and improve profit margins." - 86
  • "The productivity gains in agriculture were so swift and effective that by the late 1920s economic instability was no longer fueled by crop failures, but, rather, by overproduction." - 109
  • "Ever since the depression years of the 1930s, price and commodity supports have been used to both artificially prop up the price of farm commodities and pay farmers not to produce in order to curtail production. Again, Say's law, that supply creates is own demand, has proven wrong." - 113
  • "While natural vanilla sells on the world market for about $1200 per pound, Escagenetics says it can sell its genetically engineered version for less than $25 per pound....For the tiny island nations of the Indian Ocean, the indoor farming of vanilla is likely to mean economic catastrophe." - 124
  • "The human price of commercial progress is likely to be staggering. Hundreds of millions of farmers across the globe face the prospect of permanent elimination from the economic process. Their marginalization could lead to social upheaval on a global scale and the reorganization of social and political life along radically new lines in the coming century." - 127
  • "For more than forty years, the service sector has been absorbing the job losses in the manufacturing industries." - 141
  • "While some employees welcome the new freedom that comes with less supervision [by telecommuting], others say they miss the camaraderie and social interaction that comes with face-to-face office operations." - 150
  • "Increasingly, American workers are being forced to settle for dead-end jobs just to survive." - 167
  • "The mounting statistics reveal a workforce in retreat in virtually every sector. Forced to compete with automation on the one hand and a global labor pool on the other, American workers find themselves squeezed ever closer to the margins of economic survival." - 168
  • "Some of the blame for the current plight of American workers can be traced to the emergence of a single global marketplace in the 1970s and 80s." - ?
  • "Across the country U.S. corporations are creating a new two-tier system of employment, composed of a 'core' staff of permanent full-time employees augmented by a peripheral pool of part-time or contingent workers." - 190
  • "Americans, perhaps more than any other people in the world, define themselves in relationship to their work. From early childhood, youngsters are constantly asked what they would like to be when they grow up." - 195
  • "The death of the global labor force is being internalized by millions of workers who experience their own individual deaths, daily, at the hands of profit-driven employers and a disinterested government....With each new indignity, their confidence and self-esteem suffer another blow. They become expendable, then irrelevant, and finally invisible in the new high-tech world of global commerce and trade." - 197
  • "Worldwide, more than a billion jobs will have to be created over the next ten years to provide an income for all the new job entrants in both developing and developed nations. With new information and telecommunication technologies, robotics, and automation fast eliminating jobs in every industry and sector, the likelihood of finding enough work for the hundreds of millions of new job entrants appears slim." - 206-7
  • "We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroad in human history. Global corporations are now capable of producing unprecedented volume of goods and services with ever smaller workforce. The new technologies are bringing us into an era of near workerless production at the very moment in history when population is surging to unprecedented levels. The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century." - 207
  • "For a growing number of wealthier Americans, living inside walled communities is a way of 'internalizing their economic position and privilege and excluding others from sharing it." - 212
  • "Rarely, in their public statements, do any of the leaders of the extreme right broach the issue of technology displacement....The growing tide of immigration from east to west in Europe, and from south to north in the Americas, reflects in part the changing dynamics of the global economy and the emergence of a new world order that is forcing millions of workers to move across national borders in search of an ever-dwindling supply of manufacturing and service jobs." - 215
  • "Automation threatens to render possible the reversal of the relation between free time and working time: the possibility of working time becoming marginal and free time becoming full time. The result would be a radical transvaluation of values, and a mode of existence incompatible with traditional culture. Advanced industrial society is in permanent mobilization against this possibility." - 221, Herbert Marcuse
  • "Despite the American workers' just claim to a piece of the productivity pie, the business community has steadfastly held the line against any attempts to shorten the workweek and increase wages to accommodate the rapid gains in productivity." - 228
  • "At the same time that the need for human labor is disappearing, the role of government is undergoing a similar diminution. Today, global companies have begun to eclipse and subsume the power of nations. Transnational enterprises have increasingly usurped the traditional role of the state, and now exercise unparalleled control over global resources, labor pools, and markets." - 236
  • "The very idea of broadening one's loyalties and affiliations beyond the narrow confines of the marketplace and nation-state to include the human species and the planet is revolutionary and portends vast changes in the structuring of society." - 246-7
  • "The very notion that millions of workers displaced by the re-engineering and automation of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors can be retrained to be scientists, engineers, technicians, executives, consultants, teachers, lawyers and the like, and then somehow find the appropriate number of job openings in the very narrow high-tech sector, seems at best a pipe dream, and at worst a delusion." - 288