The war to end wars…?

December 25, 2019

Man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace. This dichotomy is not an invention of the twentieth century, yet it is in this century that the most striking examples of the phenomena have appeared. Never before has man pursued global harmony more vocally while amassing stockpiles of weapons so devastating in their effect. The Second World War – we were told – was the War To End Wars. The development of the atomic bomb is the Weapon to End Wars. And yet wars continue. Currently, no nation on this planet is not involved in some form of armed struggle,  if not against its neighbours then against internal forces. Furthermore, as ever escalating amounts of money are poured into the pursuit of the specific weapon or conflict that will bring lasting peace, the drain on our economies  creates a  rundown urban landscape where crime flourishes and people are concerned less with national security than with the simple personal security needed to stop at the store late at night for a quart of milk without being mugged. The places we struggled so viciously to keep safe are becoming increasingly dangerous. The war to end wars, the weapons to end wars, these things have failed us.

Alan Moore
Watchmen

On the doorstep, Corbyn went down like a bucket of cold sick. I voted for him, I like him, the electorate do not – we needed to realise and act sooner – not by creating more factionalism and division, but by Corbyn himself backing a unity candidate to take over.

Things may have turned out differently had this happened sooner, it needs to happen now.

Sarah Williams
London-centrism and a manifesto the size of a novel: a Labour candidate on what went wrong
Left Foot Forward

lying

December 10, 2019

The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.

Hannah Arendt
Lying in Politics: Crises of the Republic

writers make up stuff

December 7, 2019

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work. We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined — and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretence that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them. The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.” The sun rises in the east. To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact. Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction. He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous. In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible.

Ursula K. Le Guin
1st February letter to the editor of the Oregonian

(Now that’s what I call “Dragon Wisdom” – P)

The border

November 19, 2019

The border is a line that birds cannot see. The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half. The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires. The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe. The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein. The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going. The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many. The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red. The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.  The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam. The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations. The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme. The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening. The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far. The border is two men in love with the same woman. The border is an equation in search of an equals sign. The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made. The border is “NoNo” The Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh. The border is a locked door that has been promoted. The border is a moat but without a castle on either side. The border has become Checkpoint Chale. The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken. The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier. The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist. The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes. The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.

Alberto Ríos
The Border: A Double Sonnet

word of witness

November 19, 2019

The poem is a thing between You and I. It builds, line by line, a ground across which You and I can meet, can see one another, can be in the moral bind of the gaze.

An elegy is a poem to a “you” gone missing. When the poem sings, “you” appears.

But what if there were a world in which, on a forced march, a guard calls out not a name, but yells out only “you,” and a young man, a prisoner, steps out from the line in which he trudges through the cold forward, and realizing he wasn’t the one being spoken too, blushes as if embarrassed at his mistake, and then the guard shoots him. What if there were a world in which children were packed into train cars and shipped to camps, and those that were too young to know their names had them written on a scrap of cardboard hung on a string around their neck, but with no food, no water, and the train ride so long, the children ate their names for they had no other food, and when they arrive, no one knows what to call them, those children to be called only “you.” But what if there were a world in which a crippled boy in a camp speaks over and over a variant of one word but no one knows what that word means, and he limps from person to person saying mass-klo or matisklo, and others in the camp think it is the child’s name, and some thing it means bread, or meat, but no one knows with any certainty this one word the boy speaks, his only word, and now nothing of him remains, because in the camp he died. What if there were a world in which that word remains speaking forever in the air. What if there were a world…o one, o none, o no one, o you…in which that word were the only word of witness.

Dan Beachy-Quick
Sibboleth

ashamed

November 19, 2019

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

Confucius
Analects, VIII

patriotism

November 18, 2019

But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.

Patrick O’Brian
Master and Commander

unspeakable results

November 18, 2019

One need only watch totalitarians at work to see that once men gain power over other men’s minds, that power is never used sparingly and wisely, but lavishly and brutally and with unspeakable results.

E.B. White
Party of One, On Democracy

nationalism

November 12, 2019

If the future remains uncertain, we know the past history of nationalism. And that should be sufficient to encourage a habit of watchful suspicion.

Michael Billig
Banal Nationalism