Saturday, October 29, 2005

which only serves to make us grieve

I bought a new Paul Celan book not so long ago, from a great little bookshop in Potts Point. The kind that has books right up to the ceiling - they fit an entire library into a space the size of a teenager's bedroom. If there is one dead person who I wish I could have met, it would be him (and ST Coleridge - just imagine them interacting). The blackness of his poetry brings the wrongness of the crimes against him into my life, into my imagination.

Its Saturday night, so the WWII documentaries are being trotted out for TV.
What seems to be evident to me, but is clearly far from so many others' perception of reality, is that killing is wrong. War, violence, slandering other nations: dumb.

So why do we do it?
(Why ask "Why?", when all you get is another question mark?)

I am clearly not the first person to ask. In fact, ASKING wasn't even my own idea. Somewhere in the Old Testament it says, "Why do the nations rage so furiously together? Why do they imagine a vain thing?"
2 or 3 thousand years later Freud articulated the 'narcissism of minor differences' - those petty differences which mean so much to us.
Jane Ross's work on the biggest Australian nationalist myth, the ANZAC legend, gave us a clear illustration of the limited scope of the attributes celebrated.
A few years later, Benedict Anderson in his (somewhat overrated but catchily titled) "Imagined Communities" offerred a strong brew of morning coffee to nationalists everywhere.

So, to avoid the use of redundant adjectives, it has been spelt out clearly to us. All has been revealed, and I mean that in the broadest possible sense of revelation. And it goes something like this. Don't fight. Its not a good idea. In fact, its really stupid. Do you want your city to look like Dresden in 1945? Do you care to preserve Baghdad's remaining architectural beauty? Are you really comfortable with being a mass murderer?

Political science, psychology, theology, genetics: they can all be used to show us how and to what massive extent people are THE SAME ALL OVER THE WORLD. Amazing, isn't it?
So, can everybody just be nice, please? Can we put DOWN the weapons? Can we say NICE things, or say nothing at all? When will we learn?

Of course, you all think like this, so I'm preaching to the choir.
When I was little and we went on car-trips, I had to sit between my brothers to stop them fighting in the back seat. But it never really stopped them. Its just distanced them a bit. I feel like my whole life is going to be spent sitting in the back seat of Life, saying, "Can you people just be civil? Can't you see this is affecting me, too?"


...With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath out-stayed his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.


Blogger elvira black said...

I don't think our brains have evolved enough yet. It could take another million years or so to get the aggressive drive for dominance out of our limbic systems--and our culture rewards it anyway, so--never happen. Then again, these days I don't take for granted that we'll all be around for the next hour anyway (thanks to those selfsame aggressive tendencies homo sapiens have in such abundance) , so it could be a moot point. Another great post--love it!

5:17 am  
Blogger Michelle said...

Excellent post! I did some work on the myth of the ANZAC legend a few months back, it was most enjoyable and i really don't think too many aussies understand the myth that it really was.

7:50 am  
Blogger Justine said...

Elvira - Aggression, hmm yes. I used to (strictly past tense) think all men with extremely violent tendencies should be castrated. It would serve the duel purpose of stopping them from breeding further, and reducing their aggression.

I grew up on a farm, so, its not a big leap for me. Just get a knife, make sure its really sharp, open the scrot, and remove the testicles. The problem is, you have to do it when they are really little, or else it becomes a major surgery.

When I got older and first heard about female genital removal, I became convinced that if I was living in some country where they thought that was a good idea, I'd stay armed with a good blade at all times!

Now I'm older, and I've learned to love all parts of men :-) and I don't want to make them uncomfortable if they read this.
Still, its something to think about. Easily done, not so easily repaired.

11:11 am  
Blogger Justine said...

Michelle - No, I agree. Well, actually, which part of it did you find to be most erroneous?
The part where rememberance of the horrors of war becomes a national rallying point for going to more wars?
Or the part where the acts of a few people are extended to represent a whole nation, despite the fact that what they were doing was exactly what all people do in the same circimstances?

Word verification word: OMGbxu
OMG buk you?

11:16 am  
Blogger frustratedwriter said...

speaking for the gonad carrying crowd, I rather think castration is a mite severe, but don't you think as long as folks have a desire or dare I say, selfish desire, to expand their space, there will be wars. Maybe the answer is to abolish personal space...

11:41 am  
Blogger Justine said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:07 pm  
Blogger Justine said...

Mark - I was just coming back to remove/modify that statement. I'll leave it up since yours won't make sense without it.
It was insensitive, really.

Hypocritical, too, given that I'd just been ranting on about how all people are the same etc... just goes to make my point, in a way!

12:35 pm  

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