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Thread: Jesus, the Hunger Strikers, and Turning the Other Cheek

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    Default Jesus, the Hunger Strikers, and Turning the Other Cheek

    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.

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    Politics.ie Member Northern Voice's Avatar
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    So by that logic the loyalist paramilitaries were justified as well?
    Ulster Abu!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northern Voice View Post
    So by that logic the loyalist paramilitaries were justified as well?
    No, because they are merely the sockpuppets of the British aggressor.

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    Politics.ie Member earwicker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cael View Post
    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

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    Politics.ie Member Northern Voice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cael View Post
    No, because they are merely the sockpuppets of the British aggressor.
    The 'resistance' was riddled with British informers thus could easily merit the same description.
    Ulster Abu!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northern Voice View Post
    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.

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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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cael View Post
    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

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    Politics.ie Member earwicker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Portstewart View Post
    That is brilliant buddy, hilarious. petunia
    You know all about Slavoj Žižek's work, then? Let's hear your penetrating analysis, so.

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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'?
    Ulster Abu!

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