my brother’s hunter

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Pogo Possum

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars — but in ourselves…”  Cassius, Julius Caesar

Edward Said’s book Orientalism published in 1978, told us the reality of the world was a clash of civilizations:  between the familiar West and the strange East.  It became and is still the go to explanation for conflict in the world.

I don’t know Said’s work except in sketch form, so I’ll put this next thought is it’s own paragraph.  That our civilizations rightly clash is what we firmly believe:  foreign laws are regressive, their ideas threaten our way of life.  We’ve taken it far:  they are taking our jobs, and even, let’s go and kill them.  I guess Said’s idea was complex and nuanced, but also that our advanced crass politics do draw their heritage from it.

Here’s strong evidence for another view:  that in fact most conflict in the world is a lot more local than Said and the priesthood that propagate his beliefs, and the word on the street, and pretty well the whole world, seem to think.  I’ve hunted and pecked some excerpts from Russell Jacoby’s essay Bloodlust below, which show that the enemy is not the stranger, rather it is us.

If you take it chronologically, the fratricidal Cain and Abel are the obvious archetypal start.  Not a war, but the first murder in a pretty important book.  The Peloponnesian war is another early example;  Thucydides account of the Corcyrean civil war describes loyalties that turned families viciously against each other.  Not nations, families.

Continue reading

staring blankly
January 11, 2011, 7:31 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

When the Iraq war started, we began to see the American heart more clearly.  During this time, if I spoke out, I found myself taunted – both for my immigrant status and my beliefs – in the small thuggish design office I worked in at the time, full of self aggrandizing ivy league graduates, aggressing for partner attention, banking their lives on strenuous opinions of taste, committing no small error to make sad, lousy products.   All the pettiness went on full display at our Christmas gift exchange game:  a large circle of the self satisfied and opinionated each needing to elucidate her arrival in the blessed state of tastefulness.

After the game, partners sweated worry that minutes weren’t being billed, and the rest of us resisted:  snacked and chatted.   I had had enough and – like a good soldier tossing a grenade – brought up the war:  its fundamental wrongness.  At the time I had no idea it would take seven long years for the country at large to finally, sort of, begin to admit that, maybe, it had been a mistake.  One of my more opinionated colleagues, whom I had wrongly pegged as sympathetic stated categorically, without a whiff of hesitation, in thrilling smugness, that it – the war – was just a job.

Handy!  Convenient!  The soldier with his orders taken and his head down has no responsibility.  And the professional back home who has successfully skirted military service has no responsibility.  And the citizenry (also sometimes called consumers), who for seven long years willfully ignored evidence of illegality, has no responsibility.  And that’s saying nothing about public and private leadership.  It’s just a way to earn a living.  It’s just a job.

Continue reading

what happens when the one who dreamt us wakes up and feels ashamed?
September 27, 2010, 10:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,


I found a copy of Bergman’s The Shame and watched it last night.  And of course highly recommend it.  It’s about a couple who are artists and trying to avoid a war but it eventually comes to them and changes their lives.  I’ve rarely watched a film that so convincingly and relentlessly takes you right to the human heart.  And on the surface it’s just people moving around and talking while bombs go off in the background.

The Von Sydow character Jan is one of the weakest male characters in film, and makes you think the Ullmann character Eva is strong.  She is.  He feels everything and reacts by retreating; she feels deeply too but is more reactive.   He talks about the past and music, she about bringing a child into this uncertain world.

The action is picaresque, event to image to action to event, and the feeling is despairing that our lives in war are completely manipulated by forces we can’t see or know and then the violence arrives at the door.  The hinge is Eva’s dream:

Eva: Sometimes everything seems just like a dream. It’s not my dream, but someone else’s, that I have to participate in. What happens when the one who dreamt us wakes up and feels ashamed?

An existential question for our times – what happens when?  There’s her strength, she knows someone will wake up and that there will be shame.

I like this website, Ingmar Bergman Face to Face.