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Sunday, 21 November 2010
Context May Not Be Everything, But It's a Lot
Topic: musings

CCCP.  The first thing we get from Google on a search of that sequence of letters now is "Combined Community Codec Pack," but even the proprietors of that Web site know that the letters were once dark and evil magic to many of us not citizens of the Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, - in English, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as Russia and its satrapies were known from 1918 to 1991. The software firm now pulls on the iconography of that political entity to amuse themselves and their customers.

The next two entries in the Google search and the fifth also refer to the Combined Community Codec PackThe fourth points to the Wikipedia entry for the Soviet Union, and in Wikipedia, "CCCP" will direct you either to that page or to a disambiguation page where you can choose to remember that those four letters mean something entirely different in the Cyrillic alphabet given to the Slavs by Saints Cyril and Methodius than they do in our Roman alphabet.

Some of us, when we think of "CCCP," imagine it stenciled on the side of an intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at our homeland, a cargo of nuclear or biological destruction in its nose cone, or on the side of a  tank blowing some hapless Czech or Hungarian off of the roof of a building, next to the Communist hammer and sickle.  Others see a benign movement away from pogroms, the knout, and Tsarist absolutism in Russia, the idealism of the October Revolution, and the energetic technological might of the Soviet Union's postwar years.  Each of us has his or her own narrative on the Soviet Union.

Later generations, those of us born after 1991, may now regard a similar shape to the hammer and sickle with apprehension and even anger; the sickle, divested of its handle and the intersecting hammer, is the Crescent of Islam.  On September 11th, 2001 that shape became in some minds a new dark and distrusted sigil. 

Others choose to see a culture in which care for the poor is an pillar of the dominant religion, the bright culture of the Baghdad Caliphate that gave us modern medicine, universities and graduate education as we now know them, and which (through a man we know as Avicenna and others know as ibn Sina) restored lost knowledge from ancient Greece and Rome to Europe and helped spark the Renaissance.

Context may not be everything, but it's sure powerful.

Posted by V.P. Frickey at 3:18 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 24 November 2010 11:54 PM EST
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