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.