Entry for April 16, 2009

THE PIRATES OF THE 21ST CENTURY

The liberation of Captain Richard Phillips from the hands of the Somali buccaneers is described in terms of a Hollywood adventure story plot . No denying the fact: the American Navy SEALs and Captain Phillips, “the sailor of sailors”, deserve the highest praise. Until now there has not been a more convincing blow delivered at the pirates. See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/04/14/2009-04-14_seals_freed_phillips_with_simultaneous_shots.html

and

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/04/12/2009-04-12_american_captain_richard_phillips_taken_hostage_freed_from_pirates.html

However, I evaluate the event in a different context. For me it is the “war of civilizations” – between East and West. A few hours after the American crew was saved, the pirates defiantly thumbed their noses to the world by capturing four more new ships and taking about another 60 mariners hostage. The name of the pirate representative who was interviewed by the Associated Press about what had happened in the Indian Ocean was not John Smith, or Fritz Handel, or Serge Ivanov. It was Omar Dahir, and the names speaks volumes to me.

It’s the war of civilizations which West is not likely to win. One reason is demographic: the higher birth rate in the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Another is that such concepts as nobleness, tolerance, freedom of choice, value of an individual’s life – the notions that constitute the basis of Christian (and more broadly – of Western) moral – are very sensitive to violence, despotism cultivated in Eastern societies, and in particular, to the most ruthless of methods: executions, beatings, torture and suicide bombings used by Islamic terrorist organizqations. I am not saying that such things as violence, despotism are alien to Ukraine, or Britain, or the U.S.A. But, generally, they are frowned upon and rejected by Western ethics. From what I can judge, those negative values are accepted almost as a norm in the poorest countries of the Old and New World.

On the other hand, what is going on in the Indian Ocean nowadays may be put in the perspective of the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. One of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity St. Augustine developed the concept of a spiritual City of God distinct from the material City of Man. The end of St.Augustine’s earthly journey was in Roman Africa which at that time (A.D.430) was overrun by Vandals. Augustine spent his final days in prayer, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books there should be carefully preserved. Shortly after his death, the Vandals raised the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long afterwards and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine’s cathedral and library, which they left untouched. Probably, that is the reason, why the Western civilization is still afloat. I doubt whether the vandals of the 21st century will repeat their predecessors’ mistake.

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