Letters - 23 June 2017

From people power to education

People power

While Sylvia Boyes’ letter (9 June) about the Imperial War Museum’s charges of £10 plus concessions saddens me, nevertheless, when I talked with a friend about it she observed that it is usual for museums to charge for special exhibitions.

Perhaps the wider point might be that the board of the Imperial War Museum should consider carefully whether it is, in fact, rather glorifying war than encouraging peaceful alternatives. If so, how should it change the way it presents war? How could it so adapt itself over time as to promote alternatives to violence by showing what happens when you do not promote them?

By the time the violence of the second world war began there was no alternative to violence. Punishing Germany through the punitive Treaty of Versailles showed only a sordid appeal to vengeance (like our penal policy, which also does not work), resulting in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and his amassing war materials and attacking Poland. We learned something of that lesson by the end of world war two and helped rebuild Germany.

The lesson is that alternatives to violence is a process which needs to be deeply rooted in societies. That deep rootedness might have prevented the second world war. How we apply such a process with the current Russian aggression in attacking Ukraine and now massing troops for ‘exercises’ on its borders with Poland, Estonia and Lithuania is beyond a brief letter.

Noël Staples

‘What love can do’

In his Thought for the Week (9 June), Philip Parratt writes of ‘the historic practice of Jews, which was to attempt to conquer and dominate’. Later, he says: ‘I am not sure quite how Jewish this religion of Jesus is.’

In reply to the first statement, it must be pointed out that a lot of the time between Abraham and Jesus was spent in subjection and any attempt to dominate was made exclusively by the ruling authorities, as it always is. It is dangerous to blame an entire people in this way.

In reply to the second statement, the religion of Jesus was Judaism. There are about sixty direct quotations by Jesus from the Old Testament, which reduce to about thirty when repetitions are taken into account. All his teaching is based on the Old Testament and (unfortunately?) he stresses the necessity to keep the law (Matthew 5:17-20, Luke 16:17).

Of course, the early part of the Old Testament has a God who is a sort of tribal chieftain and who is even genocidal. But after hundreds of years a different religion emerges, which produces the psalms and the prophets.

Jesus’ teaching was the most progressive Judaism of his time. The Greek and Roman heritage added the idea of a virgin birth, whilst resurrection after his death and the need to eat the body and drink the blood of the god to gain his strength, all derived from pagan cults.

However, most of Jesus’ teaching is sublime and shines out despite this.

Muriel Seltman

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