Book recommendation: ‘Darśan. Seeing the Divine Image in India’ by Diana L. Eck

One of the most difficult things for many westerners to understand about Hinduism is its relation to and worship of images. Because we grow up under monotheist and Abrahamic hegemony, we are often influenced – whether or not we are actually religious – by its views. And in the Abrahamic traditions, the worship of images is ususally both prohibited and ridiculed as childish.

For this reason, many who look at Hinduism through western eyes easily misunderstand why Hindus worship images and what they see when they look at them. Religious studies professor Diana L. Eck’s book ‘Darśan. Seeing the Divine Image in India’ tries to remedy this by explaining the concept of Darśan, or ”sacred seeing”, so central to much of Hindu worship.

It answers such questions as: Why do they worship images? What do they get out of it? What do they believe the Deities get out of it? How can something human-made be a God? How can not only sculptures but also trees, rivers and small stones be seen as part of the Divine?

To properly understand, one needs a basic knowledge of Hindu philosophy and theology, which Eck does a good job of explaining. Even someone who has never read anything about Hinduism before will finish this rather short book (about 60 pages, not counting the notes) with a proper understanding of how Hindus see the world and the Divine.

The Swedish translation of the book

Book fair haul!

My favourite yearly event has finally arrived: the Gothenburg Book Fair! This is the largest literary event in Scandinavia and the second largest book fair in Europe. I never miss it (in non-pandemic times) and this year was no exception.

To await buying more books than I can afford, I have imposed on myself the rules of only attending one day of the event and buying a maximum of five books. Here are my finds for this year:

‘Migrationsmyten’ by Peo Hansen. This book written by a political science professor tackles the myth that taking in refugees damages a country’s economy. Important in these times when far-right talking points have become mainstream.

A classic I’ve been curious about but haven’t read yet.

A book on the Hindu concept of darshan.

One of my favourite aspects of the Gothenburg Book Fair is that it gives you the opportunity to come across indie authors and smaller publishing companies which you might not have been aware of before. I have found some of the best and worst books that way. You never know which way it’s going to go but it’s usually an interesting read. Can’t wait to start with these novels:

The first book in a series which involves time travel and a lot of LGBTQ+ themes.

Okay, so that’s technically six books but I was given a discount for the second book, so I decided to cheat a little bit. This is after all a fantasy series that is heavily influenced by Norse Polytheist beliefs and I’m always here for that.

Depending on time and what I think about the books, I might write reviews on them. Let’s get reading!

The duty to remember

Recent surveys about how first time voters voted in the elections show something alarming: more than half of them chose far-right or far-right adjacent parties. Contrary to the stereotypes, it seems the new generation is a lot more conservative and close-minded than older generations.

I’ve been asking myself: how come? Did they learn nothing from their history lessons? How are they falling so easily for fascist rhetoric? One reason might be because what they learned in history class feel far removed, like something which silly old people did a long time ago and which has no relevance to the modern day. But it wasn’t even that long ago.

Those of the millennial and older generations are more likely to have grown up hearing about WWII from our parents, grand-parents or great-grandparents.
I remember my own great-grandparents, who lived in the house right behind our own. I remember how great-granpa use to stockpile food for the event of war, how he had built a bomb shelter under our houses and how he made sure we kids all knew how to enter and hide in it. I also remember that we never put tomato sauce or ketchup on our food when great-grandma ate with us because it reminded her of blood and could trigger a PTSD flashback.
Neither of them ever spoke about the violence they had witnessed and endured, but it was obvious to us all that their traumas were real.

We also knew people who had been in concentration camps. The pain in their eyes and in their voices as they spoke of what they had been through was heart wrenching and it did more to sensitise us to the dangers of fascism than any history book ever did.

But most of the people I knew who had been through the horrors of WWII passed away in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Few people who can tell us about the massacres, the bombings, the camps are still alive today. Soon, there will be none left. With these newest generations already forgetting, it is more important than ever to make sure the stories keep being told.

Anne Frank. Her famous diary is one of the witness accounts of the Nazi persecution of Jews.

We should do all we can to preserve and spread the many biographies, video and radio interviews, documentaries and historical documentation that are witnesses to what fascism leads to when taken to its logical conclusion. People, and especially the younger generations, need to hear about it and how it affected the lives of real human beings.

Because politics isn’t just about abstract ideas and who you vote for isn’t some inconsequential thing like who your favorite sports team is. That’s why it irks me when people say things like ”Just because we disagree politically, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends”. If your politics kill people, then fuck no we can’t be friends.

No matter how you feel about it, the political is personal and vice versa. People have and still do pay with their lives for the political sins of others. There are many stories that prove this and we can never let them be forgotten. Keep gathering them and repeating them. Keep fighting to make sure the unthinkable never happens again.

3 ingredients honey cookies

A relative who is a beekeeper recently gifted me a couple jars of honey from his hive and I thought I’d tried using it in this incredibly easy 3 ingredients cookie recipe I recently found.

Here’s the recipe (for 1 person):

Step 1: mash one banana and mix with one tablespoon of honey (or vegan alternative).

Step 2: Add 3 dl (about 1.3 cups) of almond flour. Mix until you have a firm dough.

Step 3: Shape into 6 cookies and put on a baking sheet.

Step 4: Bake for 20-25 min at 175C° (350 F°).

Voilà! Delicious almond and honey cookies. Easy, quick to make and above all delicious.

Crunchy on the outside, but sweet and soft on the inside.

Sadness – but also hope

The Swedish elections are nearly over. A few districts’ votes have yet to be counted but since the last votes to come in are from the Swedish nationals living in foreign countries – a group which is majority upper-clas and right-wing – the results will likely remain the same: Sweden will now have a right-wing government. Not only that, but the strongest right-wing party in the coalition is no longer the conservative Moderates but the extreme-right Sweden Democrats.

This is the result I feared. I am not surprised by it. Sweden has changed a lot in the last four years. People are far more close-minded and cold hearted compared to how they used to be. Or used to appear. Maybe they were always this hateful and were just waiting for the right conduit for their intolerance.

I am deeply saddened by how things are going in this country. But I also have hope. We have a strong opposition. The voting results were incredibly tight, with less than one procent differentiating between the left-center and the right-wing coalitions. A lot of Swedish people do not want the far-right in their government and voted against it.

Sweden also has a strong and highly militant anti-fascist movement compared to other countries. It seems to have gone a bit dormant in the last years, at least in my city, but we are many willing to fight and give the fascists hell. Already today, we will go out and protest against them. We will waste no time and we will fight against the hate.

Hopefully, we will still have a democracy in 4 years. But we will have to fight for it.

The results of the elections as of now. The left-center coalition (top) vs the right-wing coalition (bottom). The latter leads by one single mandate.

When did popular billionaire J.K. Rowling ever get ”cancelled”?

You might have heard that J.K. Rowling recently published a new book, part of a crime series written under her pen name Robert Galbraith. The over 1000 pages long novel tells the story of an artist, who like J.K. Rowling, gets ”cancelled” online by trans people. The difference is that the fictional artist in the book also gets cancelled IRL, so to speak, since she is murdered.

People have speculated that the book is a sort of self-insert work of fanfiction. Rowling has in recent years gotten a lot of criticism for her transphobia, which includes supporting the work of virulent anti-trans troll Matt Walsh. She denies that the book is inspired by her version of real events but the similarities are interesting. Although, last time I checked, nobody has ever assaulted or murdered her for saying ignorant things on the internet.

While the book is almost certainly a self-righteous self-insert fanfic, what I found curious is that anybody believes Rowling has been ”cancelled”. Because the truth is: nobody is losing their platform or income for being transphobic.

Have Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle had their shows removed from Netflix? Does Ben Shapiro no longer have an online show and millions of conservative fans worldwide who give him money and support? Did Rowling have to sell her castle home to survive? Is Harry Potter no longer a billion dollar franchise which include books, Hollywood movies and several theme parks? Does she not still have millions upon millions of fans despite her hateful views?

The truth is: if you spread lies and misinformation about a group of people from your platform, a lot of people from that group and their allies are no longer going to want to support your work. They will likely boycott you and might tell you to go fuck yourself. Some of the more unhinged members of said group might send you death threats. That’s true for any group. If Rowling had focused her ire on gay people instead, a lot of gay people would have reacted the same way trans people have.

We should not care about the crocodile tears of millionaires and billionaires who will face no real consequences for their ignorant views. Who we should care about are the millions of people who are discriminated, persecuted and killed worldwide for their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race or religion. And we should focus on ending the economic inequality that allows billionaires to even exist and cry in their castles while the people they target are facing the real consequences of their hate campaigns.

Hels tröst

Hel har ingen hunger
Hel har ingen nöd
Hon törstar ej efter värme
Söker icke efter bröd

Hon följer bara honom
Som blivit människornas vän,
Han som heter Hatet,
Som icke någon botten har.
Han som lever i deras hjärtan
Alla nätter, alla dar.
Tomheten den växer
Och Hel kommer strax efter.

Hon sitter vid mitt bord
Säger aldrig ett ord.
Hon delar mina måltider
Fast Hon aldrig äter
Hennes kyla håller mig varm
När mitt folk stöter bort mig från sin barm

Vad vill Du mig, Moder Död?
Vad kan jag göra åt all sorg och nöd?
Jag är bara en man
Utan rötter, utan hamn.

Hel talar ej,
Hon omfamnar mig,
Fast jag är bara en man,
Utan rötter, utan hamn
Hon omfamnar mig,
Fast jag än lever,
Och Hon med tystnaden säger:

”Var inte rädd,
För ingen undgår mig,
Se dig inte tillbaka,
Vandra dit ödet kallar dig,
Än är arbetet inte över,
Än är inte dagen då vi skall mötas igen.”

The silence is the loudest part

On Wednesday, the party leader of the far-right Sweden ‘Democrats’ came to Gothenburg to give a speech. Of course, there was a protest.

I attended it and the turnout was disappointing, with not even a tenth of what it used to be 4 years ago. I remember how there were far more protesters than SD-supporters then. How the chants of the protesters were so loud, you could barely hear the speakers. And I remember how police put up barriers all around and escorted the SD people so that they could come and go to the event without being confronted by people opposing their fascism.

But this time the protesters were in much, much smaller numbers than the fascists. Our chants were barely heard and there were just a couple cops keeping a tired eye on us (We wouldn’t have assaulted the SD idiots anyway. Violence is only the very last resort for anti-fascists).

I remember looking around and thinking: Come on! We’re a city of half a million inhabitants. Is this really the best we can do? Where is everybody?

Maybe people don’t see the point. When a party has become so normalised their ads are on half of the city busses and trams, then what good does protest chants do? When the vast majority of the Swedish right treats a party born out of the neo-nazi movement like it’s any other conservative party, what is even the point of continued demonstrations? They obviously don’t care about their people or about basic decency. They only care about getting into power, no matter what devil they have to sell their souls to.

Even things many assumed were behind us are now normal again. Like claiming being gay is a choice. The Sweden ‘Democrats’ released last week their plan for reducing immigration. Among their goals is to deny asylum to people based on things they have ‘willfully chosen’, such a converting to another religion or ‘becoming homosexual’.

There were a few luke-warm comments from representants of the other right-wing parties, saying that wasn’t appropriate. But they are still cooperating with SD and they are still looking forward to ruling the country with them. Again: power over decency.

Protesting the Sweden ‘Democrats’ at this point feels like screaming into an increasingly expanding void. I guess I’ll keep screaming, out of principle more than anything. But a small part of me keeps hoping people will wake up in time.

The reluctant anarchist

I’ve never written about this before, but I used to be deeply involved in politics. Around 2018, I was part of a libertarian socialist group and I went at least once a week to a meeting or demonstration.

However, I soon became disillusioned with libertarian socialism, also called anarcho-communism. Primarily because a lot of my comrades completely ignored the libertarian/anarchism part and had no scruples working with Maoists and other authoritarian strands of left-wing politics. Personal autonomy and the right of every human to be free of violent coercion was not something I was or ever will be okay with compromising on. Human rights are far more important than so-called ”left unity”.

It was also becoming increasingly obvious to me that putting the collective in charge was not a guarantee for equality. Would you, for example, expect a homophobic collective to treat its gay minority well? Of course not. I recognised that the collective has as much potential to be oppressive as the state or the capitalist system. The collectives we grow up in, like our families, are often our very first oppressors. 

Thirdly, I realised that a lot of the people I thought were interested in making a difference actually just wanted to break shit. I am not a pacifist and I do believe violence is at times both justified and necessary, like for example to stop the spread of fascism. But some people around me seemed to think rioting was a bit too fun and that started to bother me.

Eventually, I was just too disillusioned and dropped politics altogether for about 4 years. Only recently have I taken up interest in it again, mostly because I am terrified by the normalisation of the far-right.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently became a member of the Green Party. But I don’t really believe in what we call ”representative democracy”. I can attempt to work within that system, but I don’t believe it’s where true change will come from. In my heart, I am an anarchist. I believe in no authority other than the Good.

I don’t really believe we will ever have an anarchist society. That’s a bit too utopic, in my opinion. But I do believe anarchist principles are beautiful and just and something to strive for.

I will continue to be member of the Green Party for a while, because they are among the parties that most stand against the far-right. But I think I will focus on working outside the parliamentary state politics system. I am particularly interested in the mutualist and ecologist strand of anarchist philosophy and will probably be writing about it further.

Actually, no

Every day I wrestle with myself, trying to manage the anxiety I feel about the upcoming election. I make plans in case of the worst case scenario. Plans of taking my savings and starting anew in another place. Which I’ll still do if things get really bad and there is a serious threat to my safety and life.

Yet, I also want to fight. I don’t want to let the fascists get their way without protest. I’m thinking about the people who can’t just up and leave. People who are sick, disabled or simply don’t have the means. Are we supposed to leave them behind with a far-right government who despises those it sees as different and weak? Can I really live with myself if I don’t at least try to fight for what’s right, right here, before I run off?

I’m worried and quite frankly afraid over how things are going, with how normalized bigotry and hate have become. But I also realise they’ve become normalized because people have allowed it to happen. I keep thinking: people need to say: No, no more! And, well, I’m people too, aren’t I?

Despite what the Sweden ‘Democrats’ think, I’m people too.

I still have an escape plan and I’ll continue saving for a day when I must leave or perish. Until then, I’ll try being as brave as I can (may the High Ones give me strength!) and keep being among those who say no.

The first step was finally joining a progressive party today: the Green Party of Sweden. I plan on getting politically involved soon and continue to be even if the left wins the upcoming elections. The threat to democracy will not go away anytime soon and even in better times, we’ll need to keep fighting and never take basic humans rights for granted.

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