From my diary

My last post, on an attempt by greedy Italian officials to charge for every photograph uploaded to the web, reminded me of a story about another curious foreign custom, told to me by my father, a retired serviceman, some years ago.

In the 1950s my father was a young man in military service.  He was posted for a time to Turkey, mainly working in Istanbul.  It was quite an exotic posting for a young man who had grown up on a farm in a rural area.  At that time Turkey was not the tourist destination that it now is.  Indeed the country was emerging from a rather strained transformation from a medieval Islamic state into a modern(ish) nation that was part of NATO.  It was a strange time and place to be there.

On arrival, he and the other servicemen received a very strict briefing.  In the event that any of them found themselves in an altercation – as young servicemen sometimes do -, the Turkish police would simply arrest *everyone* without bothering about who was at fault.  The police would then leave them in prison indefinitely.  Any questions of what to do, who was innocent or otherwise, would be delayed for months or years.  In practice the locals would simply bribe the officials and be released, but foreigners would stay there until they rotted.  So, they were told, that if this should occur, they should NOT wait around for the police.  Instead they should travel as fast as possible to the airport, where a plane was on standby to take them out of the country to some nearby safe place.

I have no idea whether this is still true, for this is now nearly seventy years ago.  But the principle holds.  We live in an age of massive homogenisation, brought about by US influence and media.  But we must always remember that things are done differently overseas, in different lands with a different history and culture.  If you go there, you are not in Kansas any more.

Here the summer is coming to an end.  The evenings are drawing in fast.  It’s hard to blog much in the summer, when it’s hot.  To hunch over a screen seems unnatural.  So I’ve not done very much.

However I still want to finish off the translation work that I did in the spring on the councils of Hippo and Carthage.  I have files connected with that process spattered all over my desktop, some containing translations of one bit or another.  So when things cool down, I shall try to restart that process and finish it up.

I see that abortion is once more a live issue in US politics, and I have been avoiding all the shouting as best I can.  I have noticed for some time that over the last few years various groups with control of the media have started to use the “big lie” technique as a way to get what they want.  They simply create a lie, and then drown out everyone else with endless repetition.  And it works, as Dr Goebbels knew.  If people only hear one thing, then many people will simply accept it.  One group of activists have started what seems to be a coordinated campaign asserting that the bible does not condemn homosexuality: a claim that would have astonished every reader of the Old Testament and the New whose native language was Hebrew or Greek, and every subsequent reader until a handful of years ago. I don’t feel the need to write about that.

But I have also seen posts of a similarly coordinated kind asserting that in antiquity the Jews did not object to abortion, or even claiming it as a part of Jewish religion.  So I think that it would be interesting  and useful to collect together the passages from ancient authors that discuss the Jewish attitude.  There seem to be very few indeed, as is often the case on any subject on which we consult the primary sources of antiquity.  I have drafted a post, but I have some more reading to do.  None of it endorses the claim made, of course.

Over the summer I’ve been collecting various topics about which I might write something.  Maybe I will actually go and look at these at some point, and do something about them!

Meanwhile, let us enjoy the last of the summer as we can.


10 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. It is very interesting what you say about abortion in the Jewish tradition. Some twenty years ago, one of my colleagues and his wife were expecting twins, conceived naturally (not through IVF). In the scans one of the twins seemed much smaller and the consultant insisted that the foetus should be aborted. My colleague and his wife refused saying that it was against the traditions of their Jewish faith. The consultant attempted to change their minds and when they stood firm, said that he would no longer act for them. Needless to say my colleague and his wife were traumatised (the twins were their first children) throughout the rest of the pregnancy. Fortunately, the twins were born healthy and grew into robust little boys. The bullying that my colleague and his wife received at the hands of their consultant was appalling who paid not the slightest respect to the tradition of their Jewish faith to which they adhered.

  2. Goodness! How awful! Thank heavens your colleague and wife saved their little boy. Doctors have to deaden their finer feelings in order to do what they do, professionally, but that’s very shocking.

  3. Roger, I do wonder, were you ever in Kansas? 🙂

    I’m impressed with the apropos example that follows your mention of homogenization (Americanised spelling would have added even more effect) brought about by US influence and media. It’s hard to know from our vantage point, though I always wonder, just how much influence we’ve had (as well as the balance of good and bad). I do think the working-out of history in God’s greater plan is a bit more complicated than the caricatures from either side of the pond generally paint.

    In all seriousness, though, it’s an unfortunate truth that I have both heard of and experienced scenarios similar to those in the comments, here in the US. It is astonishing how hostile the medical community, politicians, activists, media, etc. have become towards anyone of faith or that otherwise has regard for the miracle of life. My wife and I had our first two children with reasonably normal, natural births. When she was pregnant with our third child in 2012, our first ultrasound revealed an “abnormality.” We met with the Obstetrician and she suggested we abort the baby — in a way that made it obvious she fully expected us to agree with her foredrawn conclusion. When we told her that wasn’t even an option, she was stunned. We then spent nearly seven months seeing specialists and having every non-invasive test performed that they could conceive. We wouldn’t consent to any tests that put our child at even the slightest risk, something else they couldn’t understand. I got the impression they thought we were morons for not treating our child like a lab rat.

    For months we were told our child was certain to have a serious disorder. About a week before he was due, they observed another “anomaly” and all but demanded that we induce labor immediately. My wife didn’t want to go that route, especially after having had two natural births, so I called a friend who practiced Obstetrics in another state (not Kansas) for a second opinion. After a series of questions, he told me he would almost always suggest going with the opinion of the attending physician but in our case, based on the information I provided, he didn’t see anything that would necessitate inducing labor early. When I relayed the second opinion and said we’d like to go home and wait until my wife went into labor, naturally, the doctor was furious (I think she had one of those two-week holiday’s scheduled…”vacation” here). A week later, our second son was born naturally, a perfectly healthy, beautiful child. I’ll concede he may be a “crazy American” but he’s otherwise quite normal and among the greatest gifts God has given us. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your reflections and perspectives. Even some of us Americans read and appreciate your writings.

  4. Interesting viewpoint of the US, from across the pond. As Scott mentions, there are still plenty of people here in the US who still believe that 2+2=4, as a non-negotiable truth. But the big money has flown to the tech companies with their post-modern worldview, and too many people follow the money and the big tech-controlled media instead of common sense. What you see and read on the news media does not represent everything in the US. At least not a sizable minority of us who live in the heartland of places like rural Ohio. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I think we’re looking at a time of change, like that which happened when the Berlin Wall went down. But whatever the future, it won’t be forever. The tech lords won’t last, I think.

  6. The vast majority of obstetricians, I think, are still fine people.

    But there do seem to be a lot of Americans (and Canadians) who have encountered the kill-crazy kind. This seems to happen particularly to young parents (not teenage parents, but adults recently out of college or still in college), or to parents with large families, or to parents who have Accents Not From Here (including from the Southern US). Some of them show disregard for the life of the mother as well as of the baby, and a lot of them seem to mangle women’s innards on a regular basis. And of course, one occasionally hears of doctors who are actual serial killers, instead of just acting like they want to be.

    (Btw, never watch true crime videos about Australian or Canadian infamous crimes. Holy crud, they are really really infamous.)

    My brothers and I were all delivered by a normal family doctor with obstetrics training, who seemed to know everything about every kind of illness, and had more experience in one finger than a lot of specialists I’ve met as an adult.

    But if you can’t get him (may he rest in peace), in current year you’re probably better off getting a pro-life doctor, even if you’re personally pro-choice. Because less in the way of crazy-pants recommendations to off your kids.

  7. I fear that we all trust doctors too much. But what else can one do? I found them quite useless during a long illness in my 20s; not even able to diagnose a textbook illness (I eventually recovered!).

    The worshipful descriptions of practitioners in the 13th century work of Ibn Abi Usaibia are ironic when we consider how they were all basically charlatans.

  8. Oh, yeah. I meant to say that my dad was stationed in Turkey for a while, in the early 1960’s. Apparently my dad, being an Army guy, missed out on the Really Good Knifemaker in town, which seems to have been a shore leave feature for all the Navy guys who stopped there.

    That said, I’m not sure how happy his bosses would have been with such a purchase, no matter how good a knife he bought. Buying crazy stuff on shore leave, or buying crazy stuff in general in the Navy, seems to be a different proposition than buying stuff in the Army, especially where people are stationed.

  9. Re: medieval doctors… Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, you can get some results with spices, palpitation, and hope. Not big results with the former two; the latter may work better. Mostly by encouraging the brain to help the body, instead of being sure you’re going to die/remain sick.

    But I guess the illusion of control was the main thing. That, and a lot of favored medieval “medical foods” do have a lot of good vitamins, and that couldn’t hurt.

    OTOH, some of the more practical observations (like what side to sleep on, if you want to avoid acid reflux, or what kind of exercises help) are often dead on, and have been duplicated by today’s doctors.

    The other problem is that people’s genetics and epigenetics really do differ a lot, from person to person, even within a family, and so do allergies/sensitivities. If we really understood what would work best for each person, we’d get better results.

    And judging by the Internet, some people really can drink small amounts of toxic substances and be benefitted. Probably because it kills off everything else. But….

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