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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


Nasty Noah and the Patriarchs

March 1, 2009

3P-016 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the sixteenth episode of Third Paradigm entitled Nasty Noah and the Patriarchs. My husband says this sounds like the marquee on a gay strip club. If only it were that harmless. But no, we're again going ballistically Biblical to look at the roots of the conflict with the Canaanites – those people who are now called Palestinians. Who was Canaan, this grandson of Noah's, and what did he do that was so terrible? How did his descendents come to be cursed and shunned by his uncles to the seven times seventieth generation?

Then we'll move the timeline up to the present between these contentious cousins, Israel and Palestine. Is this a family feud, or a 4000-yr-old family bully? To answer that, we'll look at Palestine Inside-Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi. The book was this month's topic for the World Affairs Book Club at Capitola BookCafe, where they are bravely going into discussion group landmine territory. The jacket reads, "This book is not about suicide bombers. Tending one's fields, visiting a relative, going to the hospital: for ordinary Palestinians, such everyday activities require negotiating permits and passes, curfews and closures, "sterile roads" and "seam zones" – bureaucratic hurdles ultimately as deadly as outright military incursion." So we'll look at how Israel is killing Palestine silently but just as surely with 5000 Israeli military orders that "regulate" Palestinian life.

But first we'll go to a poem by John O'Donohue called For a New Beginning:

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O'Donohue ~
From To Bless the Space Between Us.

The poem was For A New Beginning>, by John O'Donohue from his final book, published post-mortem, To Bless the Space Between Us. John died last year, at an age that seemed terribly untimely – which means not much advanced from my own. But he left a wisdom so evolved that it may take a couple of generations for us to catch up with it. I think that if he'd lived longer, and his work had become even clearer and brighter, it would've made our heads explode. That's the best reason I can come up with for why he died, assuming that there is a reason for anything.

I chose this poem because it's about the discomfort of leaving the old, even when it's never made you very happy. Even though it may have made you miserable. Even though you felt guilty for even "the gray promises that sameness whispered," as O'Donahue says. I feel that this is what religion has become – a comfort in something that seems better than nothing. When I criticize religion and scriptures, I feel like I'm taking a blanket away from a homeless person. What difference does it make, if religion gives people comfort and meaning and helps them face the final darkness?

The difference is that, as John says, "your soul senses the world that awaits you." If we let go of the old, I think there's a heritage that wouldn't leave us with a gnawing emptiness. We're ready for this step, the grace of beginning that is at one with your life's desire. Would you have ever thought to use those words, "at one with your life's desire," to describe traditional religion?

My daughters and I just experienced a lost weekend getting hooked on the TV series Heroes. We watched the whole first season on Netflix back to back. Our favorite character is the Japanese guy named Hiro, who is adorably sincere about saving the world. But then, things spin out of control and create a mess beyond any possible redemption. You can see the light go out in Hiro's eyes, until his sidekick says, "Everybody deserves a do-over." Hiro remembers that he can bend time, and suddenly, there's a way for a second chance.

Biblical reconstruction is like this. You read these stories, and you can't believe that people could behave so badly. And then God steps in and validates the villains. It just gets worse and worse. But if you read between the lines, you can see that it's not the whole story. We don't have to bend time, just make time to unlearn what we've been told the Bible says. Read word for word what it actually says, and read the parts they never read in church. "Though your destination is not yet clear, you can trust the promise of this new beginning." God may not be as bad as the Bible says.

When I've written about the first book of the Bible, I've called it "The Genesis of the Dysfunctional Family." The first family starts with an accusation of fratricide between Cain and Abel. When Abel dies, rather than his father finding comfort in the remaining son, Cain is cursed. The Bible says that God curses him, but the Bible is told from a human perspective and only two people besides Cain exist in this story. Half of them – the woman – has already been cursed by God when he says, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." No wonder the Catholics outlaw birth control. I'm surprised they haven't outlawed epidurals, since painful childbirth is God's punishment for women's desire. Personally, I'm always hearing husbands complain about this. "My lusty wife! Her desire is only for me. It's exhausting! If only she'd go after the pool boy once in awhile and give me a break."

But back to the cursing of Cain. For supposedly killing Abel, Cain is banished to the land of Nod, east of Eden. There, he builds a city and has six more generations. They include the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock, the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe, and the father of those who make all sorts of tools from bronze and iron. If this is cursed, maybe there's something to be said for it. At this point, Cain's great-great-grandson, Lamech, accidently kills a young man who attacks him. So Adam, fearing God's revenge, concludes that this lineage has been a waste of the last 130 years. He decides to sleep with his lusty wife Eve once again. This time, as opposed to Cain, they conceive Seth, a son made in the image of God. Ouch!

For the next 800 years of Adam's life, Seth has seven more generations, whose names seem suspiciously close to the descendents of Cain. I've plotted them side-by-side and the same or similar names – Enoch, Enosh, Methushael, Methusalah - criss-cross from Cain's geneology to Seth's. Finally, they both have Lamechs, but Seth's Lamech has Noah. My Catholic Bible subtitles the next "The Wickedness of Humankind." The sons of God intermarry with the fair and lusty daughters of the flesh. It all comes back to the women.

First, God limits their lifetimes to 120 years, but still, "every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually." God is sorry that he made humankind and he grieves. He decides to wipe out every living thing. But Noah alone finds favor with God. Noah was righteous and blameless. Noah walked with God. Noah, of the whole generation, was found worthy.

What made everyone else so bad? It's a little obscure. The flesh and those fleshy daughters had corrupted all of the earth. God says, "the earth is filled with violence, and so I'm going to destroy it." How does that work? "Kids, I told you to stop hitting each other. To teach you a lesson, now I'm going to kill you!" So when Noah is 600 years, two months, and 17 days old, all hell breaks loose. The total amount of water in the world's ecosystem is increased so that the highest mountain is covered by 15 cubits, exactly. Where did this water come from? And where did it recede to? Wouldn't it have to be either in the air or on the land, covering Killamanjaro again?

But after 150 days, on the seventh month and the 17th day, the ark came to Ararat, the waters dried up and Noah, a man of the soil, lost no time in planting a vineyard. He got drunk and lay naked in his tent. The youngest son, Ham, walked in and saw him naked and told his brothers, Shem and Japheth. Turning away their faces, they walked backwards and covered him with a garment. When Noah, the only righteous man on the earth, woke from his drunken stupor, he called out, "Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers...Blessed by God be Shem and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his slave." Who's Canaan? Noah's grandson, although he confuses him with Ham when he makes him slave to his brothers. And the name Canaan seems awfully similar to Cain.

To clarify, the Canaanites today are called Palestinian, those cursed to be perpetual slaves to their brothers. It says they spread from Sidon to Gaza. One descendent of Ham is Babel where God destroys the tower. But Shem's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson is Abraham. He goes into the land of the Canaanites, where God promises his offspring all the land he can see in every direction. This is the source of Hebrew entitlement to Israel, as the descendants of Shem and Japheth. Egypt was another of Ham's sons, and Sodom and Gomorrah are descendents of Canaan, making their guilt only as credible as his.

If this thread of logic is cut, the entire fabric of Hebrew superiority unravels. So does God really curse Canaan and his descendents because Noah says so? And how does Canaan get into the curse at all? It's his father Ham who talks. What does Ham really say? In the apocryphal gospels, to cover with a garment is a euphemism for covering the truth with a lie. So let's see – Noah is drunk and naked, Ham – accidentally? Intentionally? - walks into the tent and sees something that he refuses to shut up about. Somehow, Noah gets furious at his grandson. What would Freud say? Is he blaming the victim? Are Sodom and Gomorrah displacement of guilt?

So the God who gave Palestine, the land of the Canaanites, to Israel, the descendents of Shem, is a God who listens to drunkards who curse the children they rape because they told. Noah commands God to condemn his grandson to be a slave to the uncles who covered his shame, and for Canaan's descendents to serve all of their descendents. But from the evidence, neither Ham nor his brothers paid any attention to this curse. Their clans multiplied and prospered mutually for thousands of years. This curse was buried until a Biblical rationale for slavery was needed, when Africans became the descendents of Ham.

God never acted on Noah's curse. But we do what God will not. We give nuclear weapons and 10 million dollars a day to the descendents of Shem to enslave the children of Canaan. They lost their inheritance rights when Canaan told on his grandfather. When we come back, we'll look at the repercussions of this resurrected four-thousand year-old curse. But first we'll hear The Walls of Jericho, by Fair to Midland:

[Fair to Midland – The Walls of Jericho]

That was Fair to Midland, a progressive folk metal band out of Dallas, Texas, with Walls of Jericho. They sing about another tomorrow, which Hiro Nakimura of Heroes would call a "do-over." When I read about Palestine today, I keep trying to figure out what that do-over could be. How can another tomorrow come out of this deep mess? The book Palestine Inside Out, by Saree Makdisi chronicles, in excruciating detail, poignant examples, and lists, the everyday indignities, humiliations, and vindictive abuses of power the Palestinians are subjected to.

Makdisi writes about Israel's sticky "demographic problem" – which is how to get the land without the people. Much of the process for removing Palestinians is through silent and bloodless bureaucratic process. But it's not always bloodless. David Shulman is the Israeli author of Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine. He writes about settlers attacking them as they helped Palestinians plant rye: "What we are fighting in the South Hebron Hills is pure, rarefied, unadulterated, unreasoning, uncontainable human evil. Nothing but malice drives this campaign to uproot the few thousand cave dwellers with their babies and their lambs. They have hurt nobody...They are tormented, terrified, incredulous. As am I." He adds. "What black greed, what unwitting hatred, has turned Israeli Jews into torturers of the innocent? The settlers come first, violent and cruel – but above them is a vast ramified system, official Israel, that sustains them and protects them, that corrupts our minds and our language, God's language, with vile rationalizations."

I looked up a You Tube video under Tel Rumeida that shows an Israeli settler. She talks glowingly about the land as King David's palace. Then she gestures towards her "motivational windows," that show the work still to be done. All smiles, she indicates that means driving out the Palestinians. Later, her demeanor changes when the camera is interviewing a Palestinian woman. She harasses her, driving her behind the caged doorway, saying to turn the camera off. The settler presses her fat cheeks up against the wire and croons repeatedly that the woman and her daughters are whores. The little boys throw rocks at them, trying to get the stones through holes in the wire. They're so proud of themselves. Do they realize how ugly they've become? Then you see this slight, modest Palestinian woman and her beautiful little girl with braids. She will become the new Anne Frank, writing the diary through which we see her world. And what will we then think of the Jews?

[Documentary – The Actions of Settlers in Hebron (Tel Rumeida)]

There are those who are writing these diaries now. My friend James Jordan works for the Campaign for Labor Rights. He and other musicians in Tucson put together a CD, which I hope to have soon, to support the Palestinian Farmer's Union. He wrote the lyrics to our closing song based on this story:

"Little Bird" is about Nizar Eideh, a 15 year old boy who was shot in the chest by an Israeli Soldier during the 2001 Uprising. Nizar was one of the first 100 persons killed during that uprising. Some 80% of the casualties from the conflict were Palestinian, most were civilians, and at least a third were children. Earlier during the day that Nizar was killed, he had bought a young bird at a local market only to set it free. He explained to his mother that he set it free because he suspected that its mother missed the little bird.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for production and editing.

[ – A Conversation in Tel Rumeida Checkpoint, Hebron]

Thank you for listening.