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Jesus, the Hunger Strikers, and Turning the Other Cheek


Cael

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Im just reading Zizek's new book "Living in the end times," and he makes a very interesting point about Jesus' words about turning the other cheek. It seems that Jewish listeners 2000 years ago would have heard these words very differently and much more complexly than we might hear them. Jesus mentions the right cheek first for a legal reason. To give someone a backhanded slap - as most people are right handed, a backhanded slap will be to the right cheek - was considered a terrible lowering of the status of that person, and a claim of higher status on the part of the person doing the slapping. In Jewish law of the time, a slap to the face was due two different levels of compensation. The compensation due for a backhanded slap was twice that of a slap with the palm of the hand, i.e. to the left cheek. (Even today, we talk of backhanded behaviour as being particularly bad.)

So, when Jesus offers the left cheek too, he is saying something quite complex. He is saying: You consider yourself so much higher than me, but, here is my left cheek too, if you slap it you are admitting that you are not so much above me as your backhanded slap would suggest.

As Zizek puts it:

"Behind the mask of submissive non-resistance, the gesture of "turning the other cheek" thus defiantly provokes the other to treat me as equal, an equal who, as equal, has the right to defend himself and strike back."

Reading these words, I was reminded of the Blanket Men and, later, the Hunger Strikers. They suffered the backhanded slaps of British state power - and the kicks and punches too. In doing so they made British state power admit that it is not the working of "democracy," sitting high above the Irish terrorists, but is, in fact, the naked brute force of terror itself. British state power is the very terrorism that it tries to look down on. British law is crime universalised. In this admission, the British state admitted that the Irish nation has the right to strike back and defend itself.
 

Northern Voice

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So by that logic the loyalist paramilitaries were justified as well?
 

Cael

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earwicker

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Im just reading Zizek's new book "Living in the end times," and he makes a very interesting point about Jesus' words about turning the other cheek. It seems that Jewish listeners 2000 years ago would have heard these words very differently and much more complexly than we might hear them. Jesus mentions the right cheek first for a legal reason. To give someone a backhanded slap - as most people are right handed, a backhanded slap will be to the right cheek - was considered a terrible lowering of the status of that person, and a claim of higher status on the part of the person doing the slapping. In Jewish law of the time, a slap to the face was due two different levels of compensation. The compensation due for a backhanded slap was twice that of a slap with the palm of the hand, i.e. to the left cheek. (Even today, we talk of backhanded behaviour as being particularly bad.)

So, when Jesus offers the left cheek too, he is saying something quite complex. He is saying: You consider yourself so much higher than me, but, here is my left cheek too, if you slap it you are admitting that you are not so much above me as your backhanded slap would suggest.

As Zizek puts it:

"Behind the mask of submissive non-resistance, the gesture of "turning the other cheek" thus defiantly provokes the other to treat me as equal, an equal who, as equal, has the right to defend himself and strike back."

Reading these words, I was reminded of the Blanket Men and, later, the Hunger Strikers. They suffered the backhanded slaps of British state power - and the kicks and punches too. In doing so they made British state power admit that it is not the working of "democracy," sitting high above the Irish terrorists, but is, in fact, the naked brute force of terror itself. British state power is the very terrorism that it tries to look down on. British law is crime universalised. In this admission, the British state admitted that the Irish nation has the right to strike back and defend itself.
Recently published book on that issue: here
 

Cael

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The 'resistance' was riddled with British informers thus could easily merit the same description.
You know there are some fairly subtle points in the OP. If you are not up to debating them, go off and do your usual sectarian thing on another thread.
 

Cael

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I think if you read the bible, the conclusion that you must come to is that Jesus was an incredibly radical Revolutionary. He turned pretty much every long standing believe on its head and introduced radically new ideas - so radical in fact, that the Catholic church has spent the last 1600 years trying to castrate them and deprive them of their meaning. A few examples will suffice to explain what I mean.

In the Old Testament, it was taken for granted that if you were rich it was because God loved you, and if you were poor or sick, it was because you were sinful and God hated you. This was the common view all over the Middle East and Europe. The Greeks and Romans thought the same. In the Book of Job, when Job is being tested, we are told at the start that Job is one of the richest men in his locality and that God shows his love by giving Job lots of sons and land and livestock. When Jobs wealth is destroyed, both Job and his friends immediately understand this as God no longer loving Job. At the end of the story, when Job has proven his faith, God makes him richer then he ever was. In the time of Jesus, the sick were not allowed into the temple or even offer sacrifice to God, as their prayers were considered unclean and not worthy of giving to God.

So, what did Jesus do? He made the poor and the sick the very people closest to God's heart. He made them the very centre of his message. And, he caste doubt on the goodness of the rich. Indeed, he said that it would be easier for a camel to get through the eye of an needle then for a rich man to get into heaven (the Catholic church has spent centuries trying to deny that one.) Today, we cant even begin to imagine what a Revolutionary idea that was. To say that god loves the poor more then the rich. That was an absolute scandal.

Another scandal that Jesus started was to abandon the Greek idea of moderation in all things. Plato and Aristotle, and all pagan philosophers, loved moderation, reason, and good sense, above all. Going against the customs and beliefs of the city was considered a bad thing. Antigone is a play about this. Today, we are all on the side of Antigone, but the chorus at the end of the play condemns her extremism and her failure to obey the laws of the city. The Greek audience watching that play would have had sympathy for her, certainly, but it would not have considered she did the right thing in burying her brother, when the king had ordered that he should be left unburied as an example to other traitors.

Jesus turned this long standing idea on its head. He said that we should be unreasonable, that we should attempt the impossible - impossible because it is outside the rules of the society in which we live. We should try to heal the sick (and being sick doesnt just mean being physically sick, but also the sickness of the whole society), we should try to build a new society, based not on power and wealth, but on comradeship (the neo-liberals are still laughing at the impossibility of this idea). Indeed, Jesus was a terrorist in the most radical sense of the word. His ideas strike absolute terror into the hearts of the ruling class - so much so, that they had to buy the Christian church in the 4th century and put their men in the key positions.

The concept of the Holy Spirit is the most radical idea of Jesus - or any other Revolutionary for that matter. It is the idea that we dont need kings or leaders, or even laws. What the commune has, and all it needs, is the Spirit of their believe, their believe in Utopia, an "impossible" world of comradeship, which cares nothing for material goods beyond what is needed for a decent life, that solves problems in comradeship, not in law. This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Utopia, of Revolution.
 

Portstewart

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You know there are some fairly subtle points in the OP. If you are not up to debating them, go off and do your usual sectarian thing on another thread.
That is brilliant buddy, hilarious. petunia
 

Northern Voice

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Believe it or not, I do sympathise with socialism (though not a supporter) and I do hold a large degree of contempt for the capitalist class, cael. But do you really think groups like the RIRA and CIRA are the ones to lead an overthrowing of capitalism and the creation of true comradeship? True comradeship in Northern Ireland could never be a real possibility until groups like I mentioned above treat unionists like their brothers as opposed to enemies. Take Ardoyne, for example - how could the Orangemen ever see those who are so intolerant of them as 'comrades'?
 

SevenStars

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That is brilliant buddy, hilarious. petunia
Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique by Douglas Kellner

You should really read Ernst Bloch...

Frankfurt School: On the Concept of History by Walter Benjamin

This piece above by the jewish mystic Walter Benjamin always reminds me of our hunger strikers...

"To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize “how it really was.” It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger. For historical materialism it is a question of holding fast to a picture of the past, just as if it had unexpectedly thrust itself, in a moment of danger, on the historical subject. The danger threatens the stock of tradition as much as its recipients. For both it is one and the same: handing itself over as the tool of the ruling classes. In every epoch, the attempt must be made to deliver tradition anew from the conformism which is on the point of overwhelming it. For the Messiah arrives not merely as the Redeemer; he also arrives as the vanquisher of the Anti-Christ. The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious."

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve. Not the least reason that the latter has a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, greet it as a historical norm. – The astonishment that the things we are experiencing in the 20th century are “still” possible is by no means philosophical. It is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it would be the knowledge that the conception of history on which it rests is untenable."
 

SevenStars

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Believe it or not, I do sympathise with socialism (though not a supporter) and I do hold a large degree of contempt for the capitalist class, cael. But do you really think groups like the RIRA and CIRA are the ones to lead an overthrowing of capitalism and the creation of true comradeship? True comradeship in Northern Ireland could never be a real possibility until groups like I mentioned above treat unionists like their brothers as opposed to enemies. Take Ardoyne, for example - how could the Orangemen ever see those who are so intolerant of them as 'comrades'?
The Orange Order were aggressively trolling....The point of Orange Order marches is to inspire terror into the percieved enemy....

The weird thing is that in nearly all Protestant cultures telling the truth is much more valued than in Roman Catholic or Orthodox cultures....But when it comes to Ulster Unionism they are happy to lie through their teeth without the least shame....
 

earwicker

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Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique by Douglas Kellner

You should really read Ernst Bloch...

Frankfurt School: On the Concept of History by Walter Benjamin

This piece above by the jewish mystic Walter Benjamin always reminds me of our hunger strikers...

"To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize “how it really was.” It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger. For historical materialism it is a question of holding fast to a picture of the past, just as if it had unexpectedly thrust itself, in a moment of danger, on the historical subject. The danger threatens the stock of tradition as much as its recipients. For both it is one and the same: handing itself over as the tool of the ruling classes. In every epoch, the attempt must be made to deliver tradition anew from the conformism which is on the point of overwhelming it. For the Messiah arrives not merely as the Redeemer; he also arrives as the vanquisher of the Anti-Christ. The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious."

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve. Not the least reason that the latter has a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, greet it as a historical norm. – The astonishment that the things we are experiencing in the 20th century are “still” possible is by no means philosophical. It is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it would be the knowledge that the conception of history on which it rests is untenable."
Interesting; the book I linked earlier discusses a lot of this in the context of the 1980s hunger strikes in NI specifically. It's not an easy read (it uses Lacan), but if Žižek and the Frankfurt School are being bandied about, there shouldn't be too many problems.
 

Northern Voice

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The Orange Order were aggressively trolling....The point of Orange Order marches is to inspire terror into the percieved enemy....
Have you ever even spoken to an Orangeman, never mind done a bit of research on the institution? This is exactly what I mean - there is little point of talking about comradeship and releasing the shackles of oppression if your attitudes suppress the rights of your comrades.
 

Portstewart

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You know all about Slavoj Žižek's work, then? Let's hear your penetrating analysis, so.
Most regrettably no, but I see from Cael's post he is supposedly of a similar mindset to Jesus, who is of a similar mindset to the hunger strikers, funny. petunia
 

Portstewart

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Messages
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Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique by Douglas Kellner

You should really read Ernst Bloch...

Frankfurt School: On the Concept of History by Walter Benjamin

This piece above by the jewish mystic Walter Benjamin always reminds me of our hunger strikers...

"To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize “how it really was.” It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger. For historical materialism it is a question of holding fast to a picture of the past, just as if it had unexpectedly thrust itself, in a moment of danger, on the historical subject. The danger threatens the stock of tradition as much as its recipients. For both it is one and the same: handing itself over as the tool of the ruling classes. In every epoch, the attempt must be made to deliver tradition anew from the conformism which is on the point of overwhelming it. For the Messiah arrives not merely as the Redeemer; he also arrives as the vanquisher of the Anti-Christ. The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious."

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve. Not the least reason that the latter has a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, greet it as a historical norm. – The astonishment that the things we are experiencing in the 20th century are “still” possible is by no means philosophical. It is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it would be the knowledge that the conception of history on which it rests is untenable."

And in the real world they were/are little Irish nazi's.
 

SevenStars

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Have you ever even spoken to an Orangeman, never mind done a bit of research on the institution? This is exactly what I mean - there is little point of talking about comradeship and releasing the shackles of oppression if your attitudes suppress the rights of your comrades.
Secret societies of the world exposed

Very informative web site.
 

Ó Donnchadha

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May 27, 2010
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Im just reading Zizek's new book "Living in the end times," and he makes a very interesting point about Jesus' words about turning the other cheek. It seems that Jewish listeners 2000 years ago would have heard these words very differently and much more complexly than we might hear them. Jesus mentions the right cheek first for a legal reason. To give someone a backhanded slap - as most people are right handed, a backhanded slap will be to the right cheek - was considered a terrible lowering of the status of that person, and a claim of higher status on the part of the person doing the slapping. In Jewish law of the time, a slap to the face was due two different levels of compensation. The compensation due for a backhanded slap was twice that of a slap with the palm of the hand, i.e. to the left cheek. (Even today, we talk of backhanded behaviour as being particularly bad.)

So, when Jesus offers the left cheek too, he is saying something quite complex. He is saying: You consider yourself so much higher than me, but, here is my left cheek too, if you slap it you are admitting that you are not so much above me as your backhanded slap would suggest.

As Zizek puts it:

"Behind the mask of submissive non-resistance, the gesture of "turning the other cheek" thus defiantly provokes the other to treat me as equal, an equal who, as equal, has the right to defend himself and strike back."

Reading these words, I was reminded of the Blanket Men and, later, the Hunger Strikers. They suffered the backhanded slaps of British state power - and the kicks and punches too. In doing so they made British state power admit that it is not the working of "democracy," sitting high above the Irish terrorists, but is, in fact, the naked brute force of terror itself. British state power is the very terrorism that it tries to look down on. British law is crime universalised. In this admission, the British state admitted that the Irish nation has the right to strike back and defend itself.

A very insightful interpretation of scripture, also the most poignant quote from scripture for the hunger strikers, was the scripture Bobby Sands spoke to the Priest that was leaning on him to end the stike.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Bobby Sands gained the moral highground, when he challenged the Priest with this Biblical passage.


Here is my personal opinion why this passage of scripture was so pivotal speaking to power. This passage goes right to the heart.


For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart
 

Portstewart

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A very insightful interpretation of scripture, also the most poignant quote from scripture for the hunger strikers, was the scripture Bobby Sands spoke to the Priest that was leaning on him to end the stike.



Bobby Sands gained the moral highground, when he challenged the Priest with this Biblical passage.


Here is my personal opinion why this passage of scripture was so pivotal speaking to power. This passage goes right to the heart.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart

Hey as long as it tallies with SF/MI6 strategy it's all good.

The favourite bit for me was when I knew the bastard was dead btw.
 
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