if the Kaiser had said No

November 11, 2019

“But what I would like to know,” says Albert, “is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No.”

“I’m sure there would,” I interject, “he was against it from the first.”

“Well, if not him alone, then perhaps if twenty or thirty people in the world had said No.”

“That’s probable,” I agree, “but they damned well said Yes.”

“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?”

“Perhaps both,” say I without believing it.

“Yes, well now,” pursues Albert, and I see that he means to drive me into a corner, “but our professors and parsons and newspapers say that we are the only ones that are right, and let’s hope so; – but the French professors and parsons and newspapers say that the right is on their side, now what about that?”

“That I don’t know,” I say, “but whichever way it is there’s war all the same and every month more countries coming in.”

Tjaden reappears. He is still quite excited and again joins the conversation, wondering just how a war gets started.

“Mostly by one country badly offending another,” answers Albert with a slight air of superiority.

Then Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. “A country? I don’t follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.”

“Are you really as stupid as that, or are you just pulling my leg?” growls Kropp, “I don’t mean that at all. One people offends the other – “

“Then I haven’t any business here at all,” replies Tjaden, “I don’t feel myself offended.”

“Well, let me tell you,” says Albert sourly, “it doesn’t apply to tramps like you.”

“Then I can be going home right away,” retorts Tjaden, and we all laugh, “Ach, man! he means the people as a whole, the State – ” exclaims Mller.

“State, State” -Tjaden snaps his fingers contemptuously, “Gendarmes, police, taxes, that’s your State; – if that’s what you are talking about, no, thank you.”

“That’s right,” says Kat, “you’ve said something for once, Tjaden. State and home-country, there’s a big difference.”

“But they go together,” insists Kropp, “without the State there wouldn’t be any home-country.”

“True, but just you consider, almost all of us are simple folk. And in France, too, the majority of men are labourers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No, it is merely the rulers. I had never seen a Frenchman before I came here, and it will be just the same with the majority of Frenchmen as regards us. They weren’t asked about it anymore than we were.”

“Then what exactly is the war for?” asks Tjaden.

Kat shrugs his shoulders. “There must be some people to whom the war is useful.”

“Well, I’m not one of them,” grins Tjaden.

“Not you, nor anybody else here.”

“Who are they then?” persists Tjaden.

“It isn’t any use to the Kaiser either. He has everything he can want already.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” contradicts Kat, “he has not had a war up till now. And every full-grown emperor requires at least one war, otherwise he would not become famous. You look in your school books.”

“And generals too,” adds Detering, “they become famous through war.”

“Even more famous than emperors,” adds Kat.

“There are other people back behind there who profit by the war, that’s
certain,” growls Detering.

“I think it is more of a kind of fever,” says Albert. “No one in particular wants it, and then all at once there it is. We didn’t want the war, the others say the same thing – and yet half the world is in it all the same.”

Erich Maria Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front

Wars

September 3, 2019

The worst thing about wars is that they reduce the enemy to a single characteristic. The country ceases to be history, language, architecture, theatre, gardens, and legends;  a heritage of love stories, philosophy and science; shared ancestral dreams and uncountable varieties of human striving along the roads of the universe. Instead, everything becomes a mere label, blot, field of battle. This is what war has done to the names Palestine, Vietnam, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. These are no longer multifaceted countries and their names are mentioned in news bulletins not as such but as ‘fields’ – fields from which the numbers of the dead and wounded are garnered daily like the output of a canned goods factory.  The whole of history is now  ‘today’  and today has become a reduction of every ‘yesterday’ that has passed over the face of this earth, a reduction of all history. As though al-Mutanabbi had never walked the markets of al-Kufa hugging himself with joy at a nation that would be singing his verses for a thousand years.  As though the Abbasids had never built their libraries on the banks of the Tigris and Abu Nuwas never maintained his pinnacle of shamelessness and flagrant sexual indulgence through to the pinnacle of day,  after first exhausting the night with poetry and lovely depravities that spared neither male nor female. As though al-Hallaj had never been crucified defending what he had seen with the eye of the imagination and the eye of the mind. As though Hammurabi had never written his code on tablets of burnt clay before Coca-Cola and McDonald’s had been transformed into a religion for all mankind, while Gilgamesh,  who achieved immortality but not finding the plant of immortality on the steppes of his everlasting legend, is treated as though he were not of the land of Iraq. Bush and Rumsfeld reduced all of this to the word ‘enemy.’

Mourid Barghouti
I Was Born There, I Was Born Here

 

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we’ll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
reasons and causes,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska

It would never work putting women in charge of the world. Can you imagine it? In any conflict, countries would ignore each other, give each other the cold shoulder, the ultimate but very feminine snub – which would be simply terrible! Men have had thousands of years of experience in ending conflicts, usually with the deaths of millions – they are expert at it!

I Wish

January 5, 2019

I wish people enjoy poetry as much as hypocrisy.
I wish they created art rather than wars.
I wish they discuss atoms, aliens, sex, science, music instead of rating each other by ethnicity, religion and nationality.
I wish they had a twisted mind who speak with emotion and kindness, not with hate and blindness.

Rim Zeiny

Sad but true

November 26, 2018

Sad Fact: Only the dead have seen the end of war

Down the Long Night

February 21, 2017

jeremy-mann-cityscape

Diary 20th February

And lo, it came to pass, that one consigned to the wilderness, returned. Though his disciples had rejected his ordinances – “by whose observance everyone shall live” – and cast him out into the barren desert after his many and varied failures. Yet once again, Yahweh called him to consider the future of the great nation he had once governed – governed as a sort of omnipotent autocrat, rather like Yahweh himself!

‘Don’t give up on it Tony,’ Yahweh said, his voice grave, but untroubled.

‘Is it you Lord? My God almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth? Have you come to me again?’

‘Yes…’

‘Why Lord? What do you require of me now? Is it a new war?’

And so Yahweh explained his growing conviction of a final catastrophe. ‘Brexit will end the opportunity and fulfillment that was unfolding before mankind! Madness has taken possession of the world. And your mission, Tony Blair, should you choose to accept it, is to go from this wilderness and preach my true message to your people…Only the EU can make a silk purse from this sow’s ear! It is an organization that you were born to preside over! Stop the rot, turn back the clock. Take up your crown, become EU president! Make the ignorant see; the bigoted tolerant. Turn these misguided miscreants into forward looking creatures…!’

And so it came to pass that Tony Blair, with his salesman’s smile and large self-belief, his ex-barrister’s ability to accept and argue not necessarily compatible things, made his speech suggesting democracy should be abandoned, that there should be an anti-democratic uprising of the people of the UK who voted against Brexit, and that, unable to exist without scraps from the EU table, the UK should remain a member of the EU.

Ah, doesn’t Mr Blair recognise himself as one of the reasons for the result of that terrible Brexit vote? While he was busy washing the blood from his hands after all those wars, he lost touch with ‘the people’. As Christopher Lasch stated (The Revolt of the Elites) identity politics would grow because it served the same function as religion once did:

‘The same benefits misleadingly associated with religion – security, spiritual comfort, dogmatic relief from doubt – are thought to flow from a therapeutic politics of identity. In effect, identity politics has come to serve as a substitute for religion. Or at least for the feeling of self-righteousness that is so commonly confused with religion.

These developments shed further light on the decline of democratic debate. ‘Diversity’, a slogan that looks attractive on the face of it, has come to mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. In practice, diversity turns out to legitimise a new dogmatism, in which rival minorities take shelter behind a set of beliefs impervious to rational discussion.’

Mr Blair, wealth personified, wore the borrowed robes of socialism for the briefest of moments. And then:

“Blair mixes with the Buffetts and the Gateses,” said John Kampfner, (Blair’s Wars), “where it is seen as matter of no great surprise that you arrive in a private jet. In Blairland, there is a sense of: ‘I have become part of the Davos global elite. But I haven’t been able to earn properly until now…'”

Almost single-handedly he managed to trash the New Labour brand. He made mugs of the British people. Fought wars that should never have been fought. He was an elitist who droned on and on about ‘broken Britain’.

In short, he’s toxic, baby – even with his God at his side!

#

How the UK voted and why? Lord Ashcroft’s EU referendum poll, a reminder to us all.

“Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” Just over one in eight (13%) said remaining would mean having no choice “about how the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead.” Only just over one in twenty (6%) said their main reason was that “when it comes to trade and the economy, the UK would benefit more from being outside the EU than from being part of it.”

#

Jeremy Corbin looks the part an old testament prophet, don’t you think? Just the man to lead his party on an Exodus through the wilderness. Promises of the promised land in return for their faithfulness will keep his people with him.

Why not in the process revamp his party…?

He’s going to be in the wilderness a couple of decades. He could:

Rename it: “The United Kingdom Peoples Party” or the “United Kingdom Socialist Party”. Give the party a new constitution. Form alliances with the Green party, The LibDem party, even, if necessary, the “Raving Monster We’re Left of Everything Party”!

Always remember: If you remain unelected, you will change nothing!

Nothing!

Go for electoral reform, including the introduction of some form of proportional representation. Scrap the House of Lords. Have greater local democracy and aim for a full federal system in the UK (which would make the concept of Scottish Independence redundant).

Engage with the people.

Empower the people.

Win the people.

Not that I’m holding my breath or feeling TOO expectant as to the likelihood of this prospect, but hope springs eternal, as they say.

the killing of things

February 15, 2017

war-close-your-eyes-by-devin-francisco

War is just the killing of things and the smashing of things. And when it is all over, then literature and civilisation will have to begin all over again. They will have to begin lower down and against a heavier load….The Wild Asses of the Devil are loose, and there is no restraining them. What is the good, Wilkins, of pretending that the Wild Asses are the instruments of Providence, kicking better than we know? It is all evil.

REGINALD BLISS

(H G Wells)
Boon

a-fate-worse-than-death

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

Emma Goldman
What is Anarchy?

Neanderthal lullaby…

March 11, 2016

disunity

Diary 11th March

CDs scattered over the unmade bed and my guitar resting on the chair in the corner. Last night the house was filled with smooth jazz sounds that faded somewhere beyond midnight into sleep. When I woke, I watched you sleeping. I wondered what you did to that other person I met all those years ago? They had your hands and voice. Your eyes…

They had your feckin’ temper, too!

But where the hell did they go…?

Then I think of all the shit-storms we’ve weathered together. Most things seem to get rubbed smooth by time, by regret – but not us! Remember our so called friends? What they said about us, way back then?

“It can’t last…She’s a bad un…You’ll both be sorry…!”

‘To hell with them,’ we said, in the nicest possible way. And together we were like some noir tableau, eyeball-to-eyeball with our sin, ready to burn down the world…

Remember?
#
Throughout his life H G Wells championed the cause of a world government. He projected it in “The Shape of Things to Come” as a world council of scientists, a benevolent dictatorship that abolishes all religion and outlaws war. Earlier, in “Anticipations” Wells predicted the “unification” of English speaking states into “a New Republic dominating the world”, and which ultimately becomes the basis of a new world state. In “The Open Conspiracy” he advocates a “world commonwealth” governed benevolently by a scientific elite. In “The New World Order” Wells outlined his plans for the creation of such a “World Government”.

H G admitted that the establishment of such a government would be difficult. It would have to be carried out piecemeal and over a long period of time. Yet he saw it as the only hope for humankind. A world state would abolish war and want; nationalism would become redundant, a thing of the past; universal education would abolish ignorance. Organised religion would be cast aside, thus ending centuries of religious conflict.

Wells was indeed a prophet – one listened to attentively by large audiences…listened to but then ignored! It is the fate of prophets.

Today we still have national boundaries, international antagonisms occur with depressing regularity. The UN is possibly the nearest we’ve come to a “World Government”, but only as the barest of beginnings. We have the EU, of course. It grows year on year…It has its own currency, the Euro, although not all member states use that…

Many advocates of the “Federated States of Europe” have adopted and adapted ideas originally propounded by Wells. Would World Government end war? There are those who think the EU has prevented wars…certainly one of the foundation stones of the EU was ‘make war unthinkable and materially impossible”.

In 1991 there was war in Slovenia; 1991 to 95 there was the Croatian War of Independence; 1992 to 95 there was the Bosnian war; 1998 to 1999 there was the Kosovo war; 1999 to 2001 there was Insurgency in the Preševo Valley with conflict between Yugoslavia and Albanian insurgents; 2001 there was insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia, an armed conflict between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army and the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia. The EU failed abysmally to react to these conflicts in the Balkans and UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre, “the largest mass murder in Europe since the second world war”.

So has the EU made war materially impossible…?

Britain and France are two of the world’s largest suppliers of military hardware…both countries have engaged in numerous conflicts around the globe in the past decade.

What about want? Has the EU abolished want?

Since 2007 unemployment has consistently risen in those countries that had adopted the Euro. One in five under-25s in the European Union labour force is currently unemployed, with the figures particularly dire in the south. Poor growth, widespread austerity programmes and the winding up of job-creating stimulus measures threaten further unemployment overall.

In Portugal, where the youth unemployment rate stands at 27%, some 40% of 18- to 30-year-olds say they would consider emigrating for employment reasons. In some countries, such as Italy, a constant brain-drain is one more depressing symptom of a stagnant economy. In Ireland, where discouragement among young workers has shot up since 2005, migration has doubled over the same period, with most of the departed aged between 20 and 35.

A report on poverty published (19th Feb 2016) by Caritas Europa states it found disturbing levels of deprivation in the seven EU countries worst hit by the economic crisis: Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. According to the report, almost half of Bulgarians (48%) and more than 40% of Romanians are currently at risk of poverty.

In fourteen out of the EU’s 28 member states, one in three children are considered to be living in poverty.

The Caritas figures are broadly confirmed by the EU’s official statistical agency, Eurostat, which ascertained that one in four citizens were at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

So, despite the overall wealth of the European Union, poverty is still at a relatively high level and growing. (yet I seem to recall the EU in 2005 made it one of their aims to abolish poverty by 2010?).

Has the EU abolished want…not yet, it hasn’t.