.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Middle East -- the Navel of the World

Among the many ways that Israel apologists use to justify the enduring evil being perpetrated decade after decade upon the far weaker Palestinians, is what happened to the Jewish population of Europe during WW2.  The apologists keep screaming, "Never again!"  when actually the connection of that population with the Israelis has, with constant use, gotten frayed away to almost nothing, and the crowning irony instead is that it is happening all over again, except with the Palestinians instead of the Jews being hammered, and with the hammerers this time being the Israelis instead of the ....  Well -- on the pain of apologist killer bees descending on us from all sides with the most righteous, convoluted, and absurd rationalizations imaginable -- attempts are made to keep us from putting "Germans" and "Israelis" in the same sentence and from saying what is clearly plain for all to see.

Instead the apologists in effect keep suggesting, under the cover of all sorts of weasel words that on the surface sound so rational and temperate, that the Palestinians must go on being slaughtered en masse, noiselessly, invisibly, and without comment or protest.   It's all in the interest of "survival."   But it is completely beyond me how any people with hundreds of modern attack planes, nuclear bombs, tanks, submarines, and the backing of an overseas sponsor that has more military hardware than quite possibly the rest of the world combined, compared to almost nothing, relatively speaking, in the hands of those whom they victimize can be so constantly concerned about their survival.  (Though of course they are not at all concerned.)

I think it can be said that, despite all the deserts and the absence of trees, the Middle East is not just any place.   Instead it can be seen as being the Navel of the World, because of all those religions that through the ages have set up shop in those parts..   But in 1949, a dagger was thrust into it, and ever since there has been a lot of blood spilled, though the steel intruder is still intact and in place, though now the dagger has expanded into being a full-fledged sword.   And not for the first or the 20th time that sword is being twisted in the world's belly yet again and bringing forth copious amounts of new blood and pain.

And it is the great tragedy of today's world that maybe for the first time in human history, there is no moral force anywhere on the planet with the will, an ordinary sense of decency, and the strength to place a restraining hand on the wielders of such a sword.  That is why major attention should be paid to what is happening these days in Gaza and in the West Bank instead of blathering on and on ad infinitum about everything else but.

Many of those weasel words that I spoke of involve calls for the Palestinians to come to the peace table "in good faith."

Isn't it strange, how, when it comes to negotiating for peace, all of sudden the Palestinians become equals with the  Israelis, and as such, with nothing to concede except to shut up and keep baring their breasts to the IDF bullets, the Palestinians are expected to match the Israels in concessions, point for point.  Yet when it comes to preparing for war, the Palestinians are denied all possession of the armaments and munitions that the Israelis receive in huge profusion from the U.S. and others in the West..

It never seems to occur to those who would urge the Palestinians to the peace table, that in negotiations like these, much, much more should be asked from the Israelis than from the Palestinians, simply because the Israelis are so much stronger than the Palestinians, by factors of hundreds and thousands.  Or maybe these disparities mean nothing to the apologists, because, as has often been pointed out by many people, the Israelis are quite happy with the way things are, complete with the sport afforded by their Gaza killing fields.

So how can Hamas, stymied by being unable to accomplish anything else meaningful except to keep the Israelis running to their bunkers, be faulted for firing their rockets that hurt almost no one?

Their purpose seems to be to remind the Israelis that the Palestinians are still there, and that worms and also fortunes have been known to turn, and, in these much faster, modern times,  much more frequently than just once every 2,000 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The "New World Outcome" in the Middle East

What is Israel's endgame in the highly one-sided contest of wills and weaponry that is going on in Gaza?   That's one of the main things that I keep wondering, because Israel can forget about any of its neighbors ever forgetting or forgiving its numerous transgressions as the new bully boy on the block.  For example, take the current massacre that the Israeli leadership and the people who voted for them are carrying out in Gaza against their regular whipping boys, the Palestinians, not one of whose forefathers, according to all probabilities, participated in any of the transports to the gas chambers of the 1940's.

Everything points to one and only one answer to that question: the Israelis have long since decided to go for a "New World Outcome."

This Outcome consists of the process wherein a group arrives on the shores of someone else's longtime home with a sky-high sense of their own racial superiority, along with plenty of advanced weaponry and pretensions cloaked in religion, following which they proceed to manipulate, betray, and kill off or drive off the people who were already living there till scarcely a trace of those people or of their culture remains, and to colonize or "settle" those thereby "empty" lands. 

That explains why you see so little indignation among the supposedly always moral American people about the obvious and gross mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis for almost 70 years.  A large number of Americans  can identify with this kind of thing, because so much of it is a big part of their own history.  In their minds the Israelis are those exemplary types of human beings called "the winners," case closed.  On the other hand they see the Palestinians as being exactly the same as "nigras" or "redskins" and therefore are not human, case closed.  Let as many Palestinians be killed off as possible and let the hopefully few remaining survivors operate gambling casinos, case closed.   Applaud while Israel expands its territory at gunpoint and at the expense of its nearest neighbors till it is ten, twenty, or thirty times its original size. (Should anyone dispute this, they have only to see the maps that Juan Cole regularly shows on his Informed Comment site.)  Case closed  And if anyone yells in protest, let the Israelis brandish their F-16's and rattle the nukes that they are too dishonest to admit they have, and also let them sic the Americans, like so many junkyard dogs, on any objectors.  CASE CLOSED!

It is an extremely safe bet that just as in the past, without exception everything that the Israeli leaders do in the future will continue to be in full accordance with bringing about this "New World Outcome."  See if they don't!

Not being privileged to be so oblivious to obvious wrongs as many Americans are, I have additional reasons to pay close attention to the Middle East, and they come not at all from concern about the contents of my car's fuel tank, but instead from what builds up in a person who is now well into his ninth decade of close acquaintance with history as well as from paying close attention to many things that are going on now.

Membership in a widely castigated group called "American blacks" allows a person to sense quite easily that an uncomfortably large segment of the dominant "white" group in the U.S. has allowed itself to become so worked up with fear and anger that they would like nothing better than to see us all jammed up together in a narrow strip of land just like Gaza, where we could likewise be shelled and bombed at will and without any means of meaningful retaliation or escape.  The successful Republican courtship of that segment, the hoarding of weapons, the admiration for everything that the Israelis do, and the incredible hatred for President Obama for no detectable reason other than his melanin count strongly suggest that that hidden longing for fait accompli eradication of huge groups of one's fellow humans is actually more alive and well now than at any other time in American history, now that the German example with Israeli modifications shows how it can be done -- and gotten away with, since the quality of conscience seems to have almost completed its mutation right out of the human genome just about everywhere, especially in the U.S. and Israel whenever they join forces, come together, engage in sexual congress. or whatever.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Going for Lidice, in Israel

In  June 1942 British-trained Czecho-Slovak paratroopers in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia managed to spot and terminate a high Nazi official named Reinhard Heydrich as, somewhat overconfidently, he was motoring through the city of Prague.

  In reprisal for the killing of that one man, and for some reason choosing to vent their fury on Lidice, a small town 20 miles from Prague, the Germans promply rounded up all the townspeople, summarily executed 173 of all the men and the boys older than 15, packed the 184 women off to concentration camps, sent 88 children to another camp where a few were picked to be "aryanized" while all the rest were gassed as soon as they got there, and the town's infrastructure was completely reduced to nothing more than a bare field.

 Though Lidice was the most famous and perhaps the most extreme example, these mass reprisals were a common practice of the Nazis.  The most popular formula that one heard about was to kill 10 of the invaded citizens to each one death inflicted on the German invaders, and the extra-added ferocity of the Germans in Heydrich's case must have been because he appeared to have been something of a Nazi poster boy.

Just a few months earlier, in January, the German higher-ups had picked Heydrich to ramrod a conference held in a Berlin suburb called Wannsee, wherein the policy was drawn up and soon implemented for what became known as the "Final Solution" to the most efficient method of the mass incarceration  and removal from this life of millions of Jewish people that had fallen into German hands through their numerous invasions all over Europe during World War II.

Today the Palestinians in the Middle East have long run afoul of a set of invaders called "the Israelis," who have adopted many of the tactics of their spiritual ancestors, the Germans of the 1930's and '40's, the most recent of which is the application of something approaching the Lidice ratio in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Palestinians that cause scarcely more damage than the fireworks set off here in peaceful rural Virginia every July 4th.  Thus the current ratio in and around Gaza is 125 Palestinian deaths inflicted by the Israelis with their 800 tons of bombs dropped so far, in retaliation for 0 Israeli deaths (that is, zero, none, zilch) inflicted by the obviously non-lethal Palestinian rockets.   125 to 0!
      --Numbers like that (for instance we have not gone into the highly unbalanced number of Palestinians that have been incarcerated by the Israelis vs the number of Israelis that have been detained by Palestinians, and that's just one of many such situations) make it easy to think that if there were an actual just and merciful God observing this, as it stands now the Israelis are deeply into deserving and some day receiving a Judgment of Nuremberg delivered on them that would rival what the Germans experienced because of their wholesale use of the Lidice Syndrome and other such crimes. The Germans of three-quarters of a century ago, believing that they would be in full possession of the future, never expected to be brought to justice for these acts, and today's Israelis have clearly inherited the same attitude, as shown by their endless mistreatment of the Palestinians.

It makes one wonder what is being taught in the math and ethics departments of all those highly vaunted schools in Tel Aviv and other such places.  Surely there must be wholesale condemnation of practices like this in the Torah, if nowhere else.

"But hey!" as cruel people like to say in the depths of their misdeeds, as if it is the irrefutable justification for everything heinous that they do, "who's counting?"  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 2

       A film that I saw a few years ago (in fact, close to the time when I wrote the first draft of these two posts – these things take time, you know!), "Barney's Version," starred Paul Giametti as one such inarticulate hero, though I suppose that that bothered absolutely no one except me, especially because Giametti has such a big cult following that everything he does is greatly admired, though I couldn't see anything in this film that could have boosted his rep.  Giametti’s title character here, Barney, was a nasty, spiteful, and thoughtless slob through and through, and it was just not at all believable to me that nevertheless he had a succession of three dazzling women who saw enough in him that they consented to share his life in marriage.
       I guess we are supposed to think that Barney was somehow above the first two wives because they were unfaithful to him while overlooking the fact that he was no model of devotion to either woman, while, after pursuing the third woman relentlessly till she said "Yes," he nevertheless didn't make things too peachy keen for her either as time went on, which she testifies to when she isn't on the other hand unaccountably saying how great their years together were.
      Giametti’s character indulged in a lot of uglinesses that made no sense and that he didn't try to excuse, though there were plenty of occasions when he badly needed to explain himself – and audibly -- to his wives, to the viewers, and also to himself.  But the moviemakers saved a lot of work on the part of the writers who would’ve had to write more dialog, to say nothing of having also to be much more careful about the always sticky business of motivations, while the director and the actors had far fewer lines to have to deal with.  And so Giametti’s character had free rein to just keep slopping right along while saying nothing to justify himself or to enlighten others.
       One scene that illustrates this especially stuck in my mind.   In the beginning of the period when his marriage to that third wife that he continues to love so much is starting to go wrong, Barney is in the kitchen doing that favorite kitchen business of all film directors: using a very sharp knife to chop up an onion into expertly thin and uniform slices with lightning fast strokes while all the while the character is talking to someone, (at considerable peril, I would think, to the actor's fingers).   That beloved third wife tells Barney that he should freeze the onion first, because then cutting it wouldn't bring the well-known onion tears.   Barney says nothing, as if he hasn’t heard a word.
       Later, when the marriage is on the rocks, he comes home to find the house empty, and while he is looking in the freezer compartment of his refrigerator, he sees a lone onion sitting there unaccompanied by anything else in there that looks like food.
      He takes in that sight for some time before carefully closing the freezer door, still without saying a word or having touched the onion.
      What did he think that meant?   He must've thought something.
      That complete silence struck me as being very strange.   Did his character have no inner voice that was constantly speaking to him, loud and clear?   I have always had such a thing, and it talks to me throughout the day and in the nights, too.   I thought it was like that with everybody, and I have trouble believing that it's not.
       I can only think that it's taught at film schools that to leave things unsaid is the most effective way to go.   Let the viewers furnish their own words.   But I don't agree.   I think it would be a better world if people in all situations would explain themselves clearly and truthfully at certain, applicable moments, even in something as make-believe as a movie, and the fact that so many movie plots turn on things going wrong because so much was left unsaid that could easily have been said aloud backs up that contention.
       I guess that's why fate or my own inclinations never placed me even remotely in a position to be a screenwriter.  And even if I had been lucky enough to realize that dream, all the extra lines that I would’ve taken the time to write to convey a character's inner thoughts, even if I did that only occasionally, would still have been lopped off relentlessly by the arbitrary, hidebound committees that I am told make most movies.   In movies, as in real life, people just do things, and there is never any need to say why they did such and such, even if they knew why -- or were articulate enough to say why.
      In real life people often may not get the chance or the inclination to say why, or they don’t take the trouble to do it, but in movies the characters do get the chance, given a few extra seconds or minutes of running time, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be helpful if they availed themselves of that chance a time or two, or at least more often than in just one “House of Cards.”

Monday, July 07, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 1

There are numerous times in movies when I wish the makers could've moved themselves to have a character say out loud exactly what he's thinking.   In the original. 1990 British "House of Cards" film,  the main character, played by Ian Richardson, did so in profusion, and I thought it added greatly to the film's effect.   But that was a big exception.   Otherwise, what used to be called "dramatic asides" are heard so rarely nowadays that it must mean that there's a hard and fast rule of movie-making to avoid them at all costs.  At some unknown point it must have been decided that the inarticulate hero or heroine is superbly chic or cool or awesome, while the moviegoer cannot be expected to tolerate anything even remotely approaching audible self-revelation.  A reflection of modern life?

Oh well.   I guess that does save the writing and the speaking of hundreds of extra lines, even it it does mean populating the average movie with animated lumps who seem to be indulging in endless sleepwalking and little else.

A few years ago I struggled through a Russian film that exhibited this glaring defect in painful profusion.   Titled "How I Ended My Summer," it could much more aptly have been called, "How I Spent My Summer Looking Stupid and Acting Accordingly by Saying Not a Word."

It tells of two men maintaining a cold, bleak existence at a weather station somewhere on an island in the arctic wastes.    One day the older and more serious of the pair is out fishing, when  the younger man gets a radio message saying that his co-worker's beloved wife and child have just been killed in an auto accident.   The younger worker is told to pass this along to his co-worker, along with assurance that a ship is being sent to bring the man back to the mainland in his bereavement.

Because this is a movie made by one of your "most clever people," when the older worker returns from his fishing trip, the younger man tells him absolutely nothing and instead keeps all that strictly to himself, for reasons that naturally we are left to figure out for ourselves -- necessarily unsatisfactorily, because that young guy's vocabulary doesn't extend past occasionally uttered four-letter expletives.  Of course it all eventually comes out anyway, but with consequences that are far, far worse than they would have been if the news had been conveyed as was requested.

But this is how by far most of your bad and even worse movie plots go.   Things are carefully kept concealed till it's too late, when real life keeps telling us that everything and even the very worse news is always best revealed RIGHT NOW, and in language a little past the grunts of a bored polar bear.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Nights of Unnecessary Noise

It is now a little after midnight following another July 4th, and the night is no longer being disrupted by the incessant detonations of fireworks in the nearby countryside -- sounds surpassed in toxicity to the sacred peace of rural nights only by the endless barking of a neighbor's dog.

The next official Night of Unnecessary Noise will come soon after the next solstice, just as this one has done after the solstice just passed.

On the last day of December in this year the Noise-Lovers of America will again get out into the dark and mainly fire their guns, using as their excuse the coming of the New Year, just as tonight those who were capable of any thinking at all wanted to be seen as observing the Birth of the Nation, when what they really celebrate both times is merely the invention by the Chinese, centuries ago, of gunpowder.