October 2003


Man's transition from being primitive to being civilised took place in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates river, Mesopotamia, the birthplace of civilisation.

It was first called Sumer, and the people who lived here in 4000BC invented the wheel, wrote the first alphabet and the cuneiform–the earliest form of writing, designed urbanisation and irrigation systems, originated the 60-minute hour, created the calendar, composed the longitude and latitude in navigation, thought of the 360-degree circle, and recorded literature (the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest in the world of literature). The Sumerians made countless other contributions to culture and the sciences, which have shaped what our world is today.

Some people who hailed from this region were Abraham, Noah, King Hammurabi (known for the codification of laws that governed Babylonia, the stone tablet of which is in the Louvre), and Nebuchadnezzar who had the Hanging Gardens built for his wife. The Garden of Eden is believed to be located here.

In 539BC, Mesopotamia became part of the Persian Empire. Then it was conquered by the Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great, who died here. Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks (Mesopotamia is a Greek word meaning 'between rivers'), Parthians and the Sassanid dynasty conquered and ruled the region successively.

The Abbasid dynasty founded its capital in 762AD. The Abbasid caliphs made it an important centre for commerce and education. They translated the medical works of Galen, and the works of Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras and many others, bringing a wealth of knowledge to other peoples of the world. The students of this city originated the laws and principles of integral calculus and spherical astronomy. It was here that algebra and algorithms were first formulated. Arabic numerals and zero were invented here.

The Abbasid caliphs were unable to unite the Islamic communities against the invading Catholic Crusades. When the Mongol tribes under Genghis Khan invaded Mesopotamia, they destroyed the Abbasid Empire and slaughtered everyone in sight. Petty rulers came and went, and massacred many of its inhabitants. The sultans of Turkey established an outpost of the Ottoman Empire at its capital. The Turks remained for 400 years, until the end of WW1 when the Empire collapsed. British forces then invaded Mesopotamia in 1917. Oil was discovered here. It became an independent kingdom in 1932.

But, while other Arab nations wished to unify Arab States in a defence pact, the corrupt government of this nation, then under the Hashemite monarchy, wanted to ally with the British. King Faisal and members of the royal family were killed in a revolution in 1958, which ended the Hashemite monarchy. Abdul Karim Qassem, who led the overthrow of the Monarchy, declared the country a Republic, and became Prime Minister until his assassination in 1963. Qassem developed industry and land reform programmes, as he tried to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. The Ba'ath Party took over under Al-Bakr, then by Arif, then regained again by Al-Bakr. In 1979, his vice president replaced him. During the term of this vice president, he executed all his political opponents and established a dictatorship.

Mesopotamia–the cradle of civilisation. It is now called the Republic of Iraq, a name given to them by the British.The Abbasid dynasty founded its capital, Baghdad, in 762 AD. It was ruled by Al-Bakr's former vice president, Saddam Hussein. It's future lies in the hands of its people.

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Dulmog was lying on the grass playing with a nest of ants. He took a twig and carefully dislodged the seed from an ant’s grip. Another ant, sensing trouble, came running to his compatriot’s rescue. He turned around to face the twig with his behind, and calmly sprayed it with formic acid. Dulmog chuckled. “Look at these ants, Yaw!”

Abayaw turned around. A trail of ants cut across them both. Abayaw observed their determined march towards a small mound of earth where they disappeared into an aperture at the top.

“Do you know what’s under that mound, Mog?”

“Ants, of course, Yaw.”

“Under it lies an organised world of a social community of ants.”

“A social community?” Dulmog queried.

Abayaw sat up to face his ignorant companion. “If you would stop a minute from running after girls, Mog, you would be less stupid,” Abayaw admonished.

“What do I need to know that I don’t already know, Yaw?”

“… these ants, for example, Mog. Ants live in organised communities, where its members are divided into three classes: the queen, the workers and the males. The only role in life of the queen is to lay eggs. The only role of the male ants is to fertilize the young queen…”

“Oh, to be an ant!” Dulmog pined.

“The male ants, after fulfilling their function, do not live long, Mog. As for the worker ants, they divide the work among themselves. Some take care of the queen, some care for the young ants, others gather food, and there are those that defend their community from harm. You see, each and every ant has a definite role to play in their society. The queen ant does not preside over the nest. Everybody does their job so that their community functions perfectly. These small insects seem to be smarter than humans.”

Coming home one evening, I noticed a pair of house slippers in front of the glass door of the phone booth across the street from my house. Every night after as I stepped out of the car to open the garage, I would see the slippers there.

Those slippers intrigued me. I decided to sit in the park and find out to whom those slippers belonged. People were walking their dogs, and young couples sitting on secluded benches. There was an old man dressed in a worn-out suit, carrying a plastic bag. By the way he was shuffling along, I could tell that he had not a care in the world. He whistled a gay and careless tune, and when he passed by a lamppost, I noticed a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

I watched him and to my surprise, he made for the phone booth. He took off his shoes, arranged them in front of the glass door, and donned the house slippers. He opened the plastic bag and took out a tray of food. From his pocket he fetched a handkerchief and placed it on the small tabletop in the booth and put the food tray on top of it. There was a horizontal pole on which to sit on and after he had finished his meal and cleared the table, he laid his head on his arms across the tabletop and fell asleep. I walked by and in deference, kept my eyes to the ground. I looked at his shoes, which were city shoes, worn out and in need of shine.

My new neighbour stayed about two weeks in his little makeshift hotel. He left in the morning, on an old unpainted bicycle he had parked by a tree. As I was leaving in my Toyota and he on his two-wheeled Ferrari, he grinned at me and waved.

Happy with the least… but still, I could do with three million euros.

“You know Yaw, it seems the world has started off on the wrong foot. From eating apples to where we are now, I’d say we’re going to the dogs. Do you know what can save the world?”

“I absolutely have no idea, Mog. If we’re to believe the Biblical Apocalypse, the world is doomed from the start with some coloured horses bringing war, famine and death. But do you know who will change the world?”

“Politicians? Religious leaders? International organisations?”

“Irrational people, Mog. You see, as George Bernard Shaw put it, irrational people are the ones who try to change the world. They mould it in the image of their unreasonable perceptions. But rational people simply adapt to the world and to life, with all its vicissitudes.”

“That doesn’t sound reassuring, Yaw…”

“Do you think they are mad fanatics, Yaw?” Dulmog asked, as they watched the demonstrations on the street led by Jose Bove. Sincerely believing that they were performing a service to their country, the demonstrators were vandalising a McDonald restaurant in Millau, south of France. Banners basically said: No to Transgenic Foods, and No to Globalisation.

“I don’t think so, Mog. Do you remember the case against Showa Denko K.K. in 1989?”

“Wasn’t that the Japanese drug maker that manufactured L-Tryptophan? If I remember well, Yaw, they used a genetically engineered bacterium in their manufacturing process that accelerated the preparation of this drug. L-Tryptophan was so popular that there were several companies manufacturing it.”

“Yes, there were several, but only that one drug maker was found to have manufactured the drug that caused brain lesions in those who took them.”

“Is there a fine line that separates food safety and acceptable risk, Yaw?”

“I would prefer a firewall between the two, Mog. Over 95% of genetically modified food products come from the US. With the possibility of mutated genes assimilating into the human organism, America could become a nation of genetic mutants.”

“That’s a scary thought, Yaw…”

“It’s a new science, the health risks of which has still to be fathomed.”

Fifty Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods
The Skeleton in a GMO Closet
NZ split as GM Freeze Expires (28/10/03)

update:
European Commission Lifts GM Food Ban (20 May 2004)

Abayaw and Dulmog are given names used by a mountain tribe on Luzon Island in the Philippines. They are the colourful characters from a yet to be revised novel, “Keepers of the Flame,” a story about several individuals whose lives have been traumatically transformed by the American-backed Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Although the ideas of some posts on the “Yaw and Mog” site come from this manuscript, my objective here is to show a perspective of a view of the world through the mad ways of politics and society.

Yaw and Mog are two people who philosophise about world affairs, religion and all subjects under the sun. You may have noticed that Yaw is serious and that Mog is naive. They both speak a lot of my own character, as I see the world in the eyes of both the thoughtful and the dumbfounded. Yaw and Mog are both looking for the point in the pointless ways of the world.

In 1950, a French businessman by the name of Jean Monnet, proposed a plan to Robert Schumann, Minister of Foreign Affairs, for the construction of a new Europe, and from which the European Union emerged. Its mission was to establish a common market through economic expansion thereby developing employment and raising the standard of living of its member States. Europe laid in ruins after the War.

The European Union was mandated to favour the peoples of Europe, united in this common mission. The Community is confronted with diverse problems, notably an inequality of exchange among its member nations. But would Monnet and Schumann ever imagine that the European Union they created would be faced with an alarming situation as the following headlines suggest?

The Big Winner in the EU Expansion: Washington
“Friedbert Pflueger, the foreign policy spokesman of the Christian Democrat grouping in the German Bundestag, said flatly that the ‘influence of the United States will be fostered by the Central and East European countries which look more to the U.S. than to Europe.'”

The Eastern Questions: Turkey and the EU
“The U.S. is pushing the EU to admit Turkey in the relatively near future. So is Britain. But France, Germany, and much of Europe are quietly but implacably opposed. The French see Turkey as another American “Trojan Horse” within the EU like the British.”

US may provoke row over GM food labelling (08/14/2001)
“America is furious at EU-wide plans to insist that all food containing one percent GM ingredients be labelled with the fact. Washington, under pressure from GM crop growers, is considering challenging the EU plans under world trade law and wants Britain to present the US case in Europe.”

The European Union was mandated to favour the peoples of Europe…

EU’s Ties with Turkey Tested (11/26/2003)

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