Monday, July 27, 2015
finding the grown-up
Left to their own devices, the young would perish. Left to the devices of others ... well, who knows?
Last night, I watched a movie called "Intimate Enemies," the story of France's military attempt to hold onto its colonial vassal, Algeria, in 1959. It was an OK movie that was simultaneously predictable from today's vantage point, and compellingly predictive of wars yet to come. Why was this French contingent battling the natives who were called "insurgents?" How interesting that combatants on both sides had fought on the same side of a still-remembered World War II... and yet now were willing to kill and torture each other with and without compunction. The land was shown as rocky and spare and hot and dotted with hard-scrabble farmers who were mostly Muslim where the French were mostly Christian ... and each buried their dead with a well-rehearsed reverence. Each side slaughtered. Each side was kind. Each side had grown-ups who set the scene. Wasn't this a tale worthy of heeding? Dien Bien Phu had come and gone. France did not want to lose another example of its greatness and so, as the Americans have entered the Middle East and Afghanistan in these later times, they fought for Algeria.
The movie was good enough to make me wonder like a child why, with such good examples of sacrifice and horror and loss, new and improved examples of sacrifice and horror and loss should ever gain a foothold. Wasn't this an obvious example of something to root out and shun? Wasn't this something compelling enough to create a rule stating, "don't do that" and then not-doing it because no one wants to die?
Who is the hero -- the man who grows a single stalk of corn or the man who pulls the pin on a grenade at the behest of the grown-ups?
But I cannot sit here and white-whine about the horrors and insanity of war. It is a habit and there are times of necessity ... times of necessity that are often manipulated and employed by those with the unexercised capacity to be grown-ups. It is enough for tears, but the tears are clearly a waste of water if history is any guide.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," George Santayana observed. And all I can think is, "go fuck yourself." No one remembers the past with much of an effect ... not nations, not individuals, so Vaselined nostrums echo with a smug foppishness. We will kill men, women and children because ... because we can and because the notion of grown-ups needs to be outgrown. It may be achingly and stupifyingly horrific but there it is, as far as I can see.
And what then is left? What life-preserver or Band-Aid of sanity can be applied? I can imagine little if any succor or sanity outside the suggestion, "do no harm."
"Do no harm" and then take responsibility for the failure to do no harm that follows the attempt.
Could a grown-up do more?