DAY 108: Ebola

November 7th, 2014 § 0 comments

But first, a query that’s been worrying me and many others who have those old-fashioned Nokia phones – there are more of them than you think. My friend has one, call it sentimental, and while texting – not for the first time – she found  that instead of showing letters e.g. a,b,c the screen was displaying all sorts of rubbish consisting of underlined numbers and semicolons e.g. 1:2:3: (I can’t remember if it was that exactly, but let’s assume it was.)

Not having a six-year-old handy to sort us out as usual, we had to assume the phone had mysteriouslly ‘toggled’ between one ‘mode’ of texting (sensible) and another (stupid) – and we had to get it to toggle back. There were no help screens, etc etc; and we had to rely on chance Screen-Shot-2013-09-13-at-11.36.50-300x180(press random things, and see what will work). Eventually, of course, something did. As usual, we had no idea what had gone wrong in the first place, or right in the second. If this seems a metaphor for Life, I’m sorry.

But my question is deeper, and more metaphysical, if you like. What Nokia user might possibly want to send texts which appear in the stupid mode, i.e. what function does it serve to send a sequence of underlined numbers and semi-colons? Given that everything, as I’d been taught, serves some purpose in the Great Chain of Being.

Which naturally brings us to Ebola, as you’d been expecting.

ebola5Ebola virus

If you’ve been reading this blog for anything like as long as I’ve been writing it (I pity you but) you’ll know that the cause of the outbreak and panic has nothing to do with God’s punishment for sin, or militant Islam, or the Illuminati. It is of course our old friend neoliberalism. Rather than post an entire interview from The Real News Network with evolutionary biologist Robert Wallace (‘Bats aren’t stupid’), here is the link; which explains in detail how, in West Africa ‘the forest is increasingly exploited, the foods that are produced are actually produced for export economy, and the locals, who had previously been able to feed themselves and engage in full employment, are thrown out of work, and that puts the pressure on them to find food for their families, which includes, increasingly, hunting animals in the forest.’ I can’t find space for all the details, but it’s a profoundly moral story, again about the links which bind us, about poverty and exploitation. And about how this leads to a previously manageable disease becoming out of control.

Ongoing stories on the West Bank: Three houses, roads and water pipes demolished near Tuwayel village, southeast of Nablus.

Early on Monday morning (4 Nov 14), while the inhabitants of the village of Tell at Khashaba, near Tuwayel, were sleeping, 8 military vehicles, a large front end loader, a backhoe and 30-40 soldiers came to the village. Within two hours the military had demolished 3 houses, water pipes and roads.

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 21.14.59

Photographs of the Israeli military taken early Monday morning by a local resident

The water pipes destroyed this morning were new and scheduled to be turned on Monday. The Aqraba community had funded these water pipes as part of the municipal water system. Of their destruction Sami Dariyah said: “They are trying to prevent people from living in this area. This is their clear policy.” Because of the continuing demolishment of houses, electric lines, water lines and other living necessities the farmers have fled to the city of Aqraba and departed their lands in Tell at Khashaba. Sami Direyah grew up near Tuwayel and remembers the many houses and shops that used to be there.

Because of the nearby illegal new settlement of Etermar, the Israeli military has declared the village of Tuwayel and the area around it a closed military zone. With an Area C designation the Israeli Military now chooses what buildings and activities will be allowed. Sami wonders how their existing community, their farms and their 100 year old houses can suddenly become illegal.

Even though the 3 demolished houses were nearly 100 years old, dating from the British occupation, they were all still active homes for families like the Mahers. The residents of the houses were not given any warning the military’s planned visit. Sofian Maher, a former resident of one of these homes, tells us that this is not the first time the military has paid a visit to Tuwayel. In May of this year the village’s Mosque was demolished by an Israeli military bulldozer together with 4 other houses, 4 cottages and 2 barns. Less than 1 month ago the power line was cut by the military, leaving the village without electricity.

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 21.20.44Photograph taken by Bakr Direyah at the demonstration in May after the demolition of the local Mosque

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 21.27.48Sofian Maher and local resident near their destroyed home near Tell at Khashaba

Sofian Maher told us about how his family tried to rebuild their house after it was demolished in May. While rebuilding, Sofian’s family lived in a donated tent but the military returned to tear down the tent.  The family then moved into old stone huts that were built, long ago, to house animals while shepherding.  Periodically the military came back and destroyed the newly rebuild portions of their house. The family is now trying to rebuild their home for the fourth time.

To further make the area uninhabitable the military dug out sections of the road going to the farms that are left.  No less than 25 places the roadway was dug out, this included all of the culverts.  In addition there was a long section where the whole roadway had been dug out.

This morning 3 houses were also demolished in Ramadin ash Shamali near Qalqiliya, Ramallah.

To improve the military’s ability to return regularly to Tell at Khashaba they cut a new road from the military base through the farmer’s fields and farms directly into Tell at Khashaba.

Scott and Sophie, 

ISM Nablus

At the Movies (cont.)

As Freud said to Jung (or was it Lacan?), ‘There’s no such thing as a coincidence’. Two posts past, roughly, I mentioned Dreyer’s classic The Passion of Joan of Arc together with Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 10080 Bruxelles in which a single mother combines cooking and prostitution. How could I not have known – or did I know, consciously or unconsciously, that  the well-known French director Jean-Luc Godard had made  a film  (Vivre sa Vie) GodVivre4in which a bored shop assistant (played by Anna Karina) watches the Dreyer film ‘with tears streaming down her face’ as a prelude to embarking on a life of prostitution. Clearly either I knew, or there’s some subtext (I think that’s the word) in The Passion of Joan of Arc. What?

Poetry, Jeanne d’Arc and Mathematics

II refer of course to Christine de Pizan’s 61-stanza ‘Dictié de Jehanne d’Arc’, which begins:


Je,Christine, qui ay plouré

XI ans en abbaye close,

Où j’ay tousjours puis demouré

Que Charles (c’est estrange chose!),

Le filz du roy, se dire l’ose,

S’en fouy de Paris de tire,

Par la traïson là enclose,

Ore à prime me prens à rire;


I, Christine, who have wept for eleven years in a walled abbey where I have lived ever since Charles (how strange this is!) the King’s son–dare I say it?–fled in haste from Paris, I who have lived enclosed there on account of the treachery, now, for the first time, begin to laugh;

As usual, it’s hard to find a full text in the original; but here is a useful scholarly découpage of the numerical structure of the stanzas. Christine de Pizan of course knew her Pythagorean number symbolism; and this – according to Jean-François Kosta-Théfaine in Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales et Humanistes -  is how it goes:

 Séquence I : 12 huitains – nombre que l’on obtient en multipliant 6 par 2 (6 = modèle de la représentation des jours et 2 = un des chiffres de la Vierge), ou bien en multipliant 4 par 3 (4 = la terre et 3 = le Ciel, mais ce nombre correspond aussi à la Sainte Trinité).
  • Séquence II : 8 huitains – nombre de la Résurrection et du baptême, que l’on peut également obtenir en multipliant 2 par 4 (2 = un des chiffres de la Vierge, et 4 = la terre, mais le nombre 4 peut également être obtenu par la multiplication de 2 par 2, nous avons alors la figure du carré, qui est le « modèle abstrait de l’édifice auquel s’identifie la Cité de Dieu »).

  • Séquence III : 16 huitains – nombre que l’on obtient en multipliant 4 par 4 ou bien 2 par 8 (à nouveau présence du nombre de la Résurrection et d’un des chiffres de la Vierge).

  • Séquence IV : 2 huitains – 2 = un des chiffres de la Vierge. Nombre également obtenu par la somme de 1 + 1 (1 = nombre de la monade et de l’unité divine).

  • Séquence V : 3 huitains – 3 = Sainte Trinité. Nombre également obtenu par la somme de 2 + 1 (chiffre de la Vierge allié à l’unité divine).

  • Séquence VI : 3 huitains (même schéma que celui de la séquence V).

  • Séquence VII : 1 huitain – 1 = nombre de la monade et de l’unité divine.

  • Séquence VIII : 14 huitains – nombre que l’on obtient en multipliant 7 par 2 (7 = « chiffre […] parfait, doit son importance au fait qu’il est la somme de 4 (la terre) et de 3 (le ciel, la Trinité) » et 2 = un des chiffres de la Vierge). Nombre que l’on peut également obtenir par la somme de 10 + 4 (10 ou tetractys pythagoricienne est un nombre auquel les disciples de Pythagore vouaient une sorte de culte, car il est le nombre parfait par excellence puisqu’il est la somme des quatre premiers nombres. Le 4, comme le souligne Françoise Ferrand, « revêt une importance première : [car] il renvoie à la symbolique bien connue des éléments terrestres : les quatre coins du monde, les quatre saisons, les quatre âges de l’homme, puis aux quatre fleuves du Paradis, aux quatre Evangiles, au Tétramorphe ».

  • Séquence IX : 2 huitains – 2 = chiffre de la femme en général et de la Vierge en particulier.

There is all the same something a bit dubious about M. Kosta-Théfaine’s schema, as in all these numerological analyses – I don’t know if you remember that bloke in War and Peace (chapter 19) who managed to persuade himself that the letters of his name added up to 666, and that that must be significant. Are there any rules of falsifiability in working out how Christine arranged her stanzas – as a Popperian would say?

Anyway, being unable for the present to add to that, I wonder if readers could provide a similar Pythagorean analysis of the numerical structure of the choruses in Coltrane’s solo on My Favorite Things. Given that Coltrane was something of a mystic himself.





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